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Empire State Development announces new WNY talent initiative to train, attract & retain tech workforce that will 'power the region's continued growth'

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Thu, Mar 26th 2020 08:00 pm

ESD board approves $2M grant to TechBuffalo to collaborate with ESD

Empire State Development on Thursday announced the launch of the $12 million Buffalo-Niagara Talent Initiative to help cultivate Western New York’s tech workforce. This new initiative is designed to train, attract and retain tech talent to fuel the region’s continued economic transformation. The ESD board of directors met today and approved a $2 million grant to TechBuffalo, a not-for-profit that will partner with ESD and lead coordination and implementation for the initiative.

“The objectives of the new Buffalo-Niagara Talent Initiative will attract and cultivate the jobs that power the region’s innovation-driven economy,” said ESD Acting Commissioner, President and & CEO-designate Eric Gertler. “These efforts will build on the remarkable progress that has transformed Western New York as a result of our investment in the region.”

James Partsch, executive director at TechBuffalo, said, “Working together, this initiative will help build a future in which the Buffalo community is growing, developing and engaging tech talent by upskilling and reskilling our existing workforce, collaborating with regional universities and community organizations, keeping great talent in Western New York, and attracting new individuals and their families to our amazing community. This would not be possible without the support of the Western New York Impact Investment Fund providing bridge funding to ensure the immediate operationalization of our mission is realized.”

The Western New York Regional Economic Development Council (WNYREDC) developed the Buffalo-Niagara Talent Initiative in response to a labor pool shortage identified in the region, particularly in the tech sector.

A press release explained, “Driven by increased digitalization and automation across industries, companies around the globe are facing a technology talent shortage that will continue to expand in the coming years. Industries in Western New York have identified an urgent need to fill a large number of vacant tech positions. Creating, attracting and retaining talent with modern technology skills will be a key differentiator for the region’s continued success.”

Through this new initiative, funding will be provided for new programs that seek to increase the tech talent pool and help Western New York continue to play a part in rebuilding its economy. New York state is committing up to $8 million in funding to jump-start these programs, and is engaging with foundations and the private sector to further develop and fund the Initiative.

New programs will focus on improving the tech ecosystem through a three-pronged approach to address the urgent need for tech workers, including:

•Upskilling and reskilling unemployed and underemployed individuals for entry-level jobs in tech, as well as upskilling mid-level tech professionals and recent college graduates for more senior positions. Partnerships with industry will provide new training opportunities and job placement assistance upon completion of training.

•Retaining graduates of local colleges and universities by establishing programs that provide better connections to industry through internships and networking opportunities.

•Attracting tech workers from outside the region to increase the population and labor pool through:

√ Working with Forge Buffalo on providing resources for job seekers and employers in startups and small tech companies to connect and hire;

√ Creating a program allowing tech students in colleges and universities outside of the region to spend time in the region connecting and working with local employers and to consider Western New York a place to live and work after graduation; and

√ Developing content and digital marketing with Invest Buffalo Niagara and the “Be in Buffalo” platform to expand the reach of the WNY region’s tech sector-focused talent recruitment efforts.

To coordinate the multiple initiatives, ESD will be partnering with TechBuffalo, a not-for-profit with the mission of producing 5,000 new technology professions in the WNY region. To avoid duplicating efforts with other organizations, TechBuffalo will work to: coordinate activities across the investment portfolio; develop a website that serves as a portal for overarching information on the Buffalo tech scene; host events and provide coordination between companies and job seekers; and implement a tech-specific talent attraction and retention agenda that cuts across the three strategies on behalf of ESD.

Through their work and across the portfolio, ESD and TechBuffalo are seeking to: increase outreach to local college students and companies to improve student awareness of post-grad opportunities; improve access of non-WNY residents to job opportunities in the region, so they consider WNY as a place to relocate; increase access of companies to job seekers; and grow the regional tech sector and average tech sector wages.

New York State Sen. Tim Kennedy said, "Now more than ever, we need to be creating new opportunities for employment and fueling innovative ideas, and the Buffalo Niagara Talent Initiative will fulfill both of those goals. This new partnership will complement existing tech incubators like 43North, and continue to foster the training and skills needed to build strong tech leaders here in Western New York."

Majority Leader Crystal Peoples-Stokes said, “Now more than ever, the Buffalo Niagara Talent Initiative is needed to help train tech workers to prepare them for the opportunities that will exist after we come out of this economic slump created by the coronavirus pandemic. The $2 million grant to Tech Buffalo will ensure those hardest hit by this public health crisis get the training they need to fill these new tech jobs as we move toward a more innovation driven economy. We thank the governor for his continued vision and support for the people of Western New York.” 

Assemblyman Sean Ryan said, "Western New York is known for having an incredible workforce, and the new Buffalo-Niagara Talent Initiative will be an important step forward for the future of our region. An innovative tech workforce is fueling our growth. By providing the training our workers need, we will help to ensure these jobs are the foundation for our success in the 21st century."

Buffalo Mayor Byron Brown said, "The state's new efforts to attract tech talent is a great fit with my administration's ‘Race for Place’ initiative, which is employing ‘smart city’ technology to improve and maintain our infrastructure to help position Buffalo as a place tech companies and their employees want to be. ESD's board actions today enables work to begin on the planning, implementation and coordination of multiple initiatives targeting talent attraction and the retention of tech sector workers in Buffalo, which will result in direct job placement."

The $12 million Buffalo-Niagara Talent Initiative helps cultivate the tech workforce fueling Western New York’s continued growth. This new initiative is designed to train, attract and retain tech talent that will continue to power the region’s economic rebirth. For more information, visit https://buffalobillion.ny.gov/buffaloniagara-talent-initiative.

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