City of Niagara Falls Mayor Robert Restaino on Monday announced the creation of the City of Niagara Falls Workforce Development Consortium – with Niagara County Community College Assistant Vice President of Academic Affairs Karen Kwandrans named director.
The consortium is focused on advocating for Niagara Falls residents in consolidating employment opportunity efforts and assistance into one source.
Kwandrans comes to the group with more than 20 years of higher education experience, focusing on development of programs, curricula and credentials to bridge workforce initiatives, obtaining business and industry input to identify regional economic development plans, professional development for area high school and adult education educators, marketing and recruitment, grant supervision and identification. The initial plans for the consortium bring together industry and other critical partners, including community groups, to develop a responsive mutually beneficial relationship. The goal is to create a regional economic impact by developing an employee pipeline.
“We want to ensure that all residents of the city are aware of the training and employment opportunities available to them,” Kwandrans said. “Our efforts will begin in middle school with career awareness, then educational and training opportunities leading to good-paying jobs.”
At the end of last month, Restaino held a workforce development “meet and greet” at City Hall. The meeting brought together different members of the community focused in the areas of education, job training, job placement and job opportunity, allowing them the opportunity to share what each program, group or organization offers, where there are gaps in these efforts, and help needed.
“I’ve been engaging in conversations since the beginning of my term focused around the need for workforce development,” Restaino said. “These conversations with community members and leaders has shaped and directed our need to create this organization. Oftentimes the different groups, organizations and development programs have operated in silos, separate from one another. Our hope now, from our original meeting and moving forward, is to help gather all resources and information into a coordinated effort, which will now be the City of Niagara Falls Workforce Development Consortium.”
In addition to conversations Restaino has had with the community, workforce development was also identified by the committee on employment, under the social justice commission, with the recommendation that utilizing existing resources to their fullest potential and creating awareness was vital to encourage and create workforce development throughout the Niagara Falls community.
The mayor’s office said, “The creation of the Workforce Development Consortium and Kwandrans appointment as director is the first step to creating this much-needed coordinated resource in Niagara Falls.”
Restaino said, “While we have other phases to our coordinated efforts, the creation of the consortium and the focus Director Kwandrans can provide will help our drive to increase employment and attack poverty in our city. We’re excited about the opportunities this can bring to our community.”