People looking for work in the Buffalo Niagara region must retool themselves to fit a job market that is irrevocably changing from heavy industrial to one focused on light industry, technology and bio-sciences, the state labor commissioner told an audience in Niagara Falls on Wednesday.
Addressing a wide range of stakeholders in the state's workforce, M. Patricia Smith called for community colleges to tailor their curriculums to meet the needs of the changing workplace.
"The time has come to re-examine the entire job market and find out what's working and what isn't," she told about 250 people at a conference of the New York Association of Training and Employment Professionals.
"In Buffalo, we believe that advanced manufacturing, life sciences, clean technology and health care are among the emerging industries," she said.
Smith said the state government has invested more than $3 million for worker training in the Buffalo region, a good portion of it in these emerging industries.
"We're currently working with our counterparts in economic development and higher education to address these shortages, and also to steer workers into specific emerging industries," she said. "We want employers to come to us when they need workers."
Current needs in the workforce include math and science teachers; almost all health care occupations; electrical, mechanical and environmental engineers; molders, millwrights and machine operators, she noted.
"As green jobs and technologies continue to seep into the private sector, the demand for skilled workers in these areas will be even greater," Smith added.
The 22nd annual conference of the state's workforce association continues today with an address by Morton Bahr of the National Commission on Adult Literacy. Bahr, former president of the Communications Workers of America, will speak on the need for adult education and training in the modern workforce.