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Another Voice: Manufacturers gear up for workforce development

By Scott Pallotta and Elizabeth Galanis-Miller

While much has been written about the local economic renaissance, the role of area manufacturers in the resurgence should not go unnoticed. The numbers tell the story, and it is a story of both challenge and opportunity.

According to the Buffalo Niagara Labor Market Assessment released earlier this year, there are over 1,700 manufacturing firms employing 72,000 people in the eight-county region of Western New York. Area jobs in advanced manufacturing pay approximately $15,000 more a year than the local average annual wage.

Local manufacturers have created 2,700 new jobs over the last five years and are estimated to create an additional 1,100 jobs annually over the next 10 years. But these job numbers tell only half the story. Western New York manufacturers are also bracing for an anticipated retirement of more than 21,000 workers over the next decade.

Local manufacturers are struggling to find qualified employees to fill current openings, let alone future vacancies. The result is a strain on production and growth, which ultimately has an adverse effect on the local economy. That is why a coalition of local employers and organizations recently rolled out a blueprint for workforce development.

Employ Buffalo Niagara is an employer-led initiative powered by the Buffalo Niagara Partnership, the regional chamber of commerce that has a history serving manufacturers since 1910. The program’s mission is to close the skills gap, giving employers better access to a greater number of qualified, diverse job candidates while connecting job seekers with a growing number of career opportunities in the region.

Employ Buffalo Niagara is based on a proven model developed by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and successfully deployed in Houston. The Talent Pipeline Management model applies the principles of supply chain management to source talent and calls on employers to play a new and expanded role as the end customers of the workforce system.

As manufacturers we understand the role we must play in addressing our workforce challenges head-on, sharing responsibility for developing the necessary talent to fill current skill gaps. For the first time, employers are driving this critical discussion and working collaboratively with government, community leaders and service providers to deliver the systems change that is desperately needed for both employers and job seekers.

Manufacturers are not alone as they face the one-two punch of growing job vacancies and the looming retirement cliff. Many other industries are or will be experiencing these same struggles. That is why Employ Buffalo Niagara will be turning its attention to both health care and hospitality – two key growth industries in Buffalo Niagara – as next steps.
Employ Buffalo Niagara demonstrates employers’ commitment to be active participants in driving workforce solutions, while creating a more diverse and inclusive economy in the process.

To join our effort or learn more, visit employbuffaloniagara.org.

Scott Pallotta, of Zehnder Rittling, and Elizabeth Galanis-Miller, of Sealing Devices, are members of the Buffalo Niagara Partnership’s Manufacturers Council.

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