NYC Invests $18.6M in Workforce Development
Last week, New York City Mayor Eric Adams announced the launch of a new, innovative talent development initiative designed to help place nearly 2,300 low-income New Yorkers in careers in two high-growth sectors of the city’s economy.
Slated to take place over the next three years, the New York City Pathways to Industrial and Construction Careers (PINCC) will be funded by an $18.6 million grant from the U.S. Economic Development Administration in response to New York City’s winning proposal to the Good Jobs Challenge created under the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021.
“All New Yorkers deserve to earn a living wage and share in our city’s prosperity, and that’s why I’m proud to announce the Pathways to Industrial and Construction Careers,” said Mayor Adams. “With the support of an $18.6 million federal grant, we are taking major steps towards making sure that thousands of New Yorkers have access to jobs that they can support a family with, while giving our city’s employers access to the talent they need to thrive.
“This is a dynamic new approach to workforce development and a major shift from the previous way jobseekers and employers were served. And this isn’t just about a single program — we are applying this same philosophy to revolutionize our approach to talent development in New York City by signing an executive order to streamline the efforts of nearly two dozen city agencies and offices that administer these programs. Lives will be changed because of this work and employers will be provided with a strong talent pipeline needed to grow.”
Ongoing Workforce Issues
All over North America, several reports have indicated that the construction industry is continuing to undergo challenges related to supply chain disruptions, labor shortages and recruitment, among others.
While projects are still being scheduled out, some builders have been forced to defer or cancel work as they continue to address these issues.
At the end of March, there were 415,000 construction-industry job openings reported in the United States, a jump of 69,000 (20%) from March 2021. The month hike marked the largest total for any month since the government data series was inaugurated in 2000.
In an analysis of the data released between March and April, the Associated General Contractors of America found that construction employment gained 2,000 jobs.
According to Ken Simonson, AGC’s Chief Economist, the pause in employment gains signified a shortage of qualified workers, rather than any slowdown in demand for projects. “In fact, job openings in construction hit an all-time high at the end of March, while the industry’s unemployment rate was the lowest ever recorded for April,” he said.
At the time, the report revealed that the unemployment rate among jobseekers with construction experience dropped just over 3% from 7.7% in April 2021 to 4.6% in May, the lowest April rate since the series launched. The number of unemployed construction workers fell by 304,000 or 40% to 464,000, a 22-year low for April.
More recently, last month AGC found in a report that construction employment in the U.S. climbed by 13,000 in June. However, the continued plunge in jobseekers continues to leave the construction industry with a record number of unfilled positions at the end of May.
In another report by Statistics Canada, officials found that construction employers were actively looking to fill 81,500 vacant positions within the first quarter of 2022. This number is noted to be 7.1% (5,400) higher from the first quarter of 2021 and more than double that was reported in 2020.
Although many associations, agencies, unions and others in the construction industry are searching for relief, Employment and Social Development Canada predicts that demand for construction trades will likely remain high.
Citing BuildForce, ESDC pointed out that the industry in Canada would need to recruit 309,000 new construction workers over the next decade. This number is driven predominantly by the expected retirement of 259,100 workers, which make up 22% of the current labor force.
To that end, in a recent analysis by the specialized division of staffing giant PeopleReady, PeopleReady Skilled Trades, the construction industry is one of the hardest hit by worker scarcity.
Looking back at when the pandemic started in March 2020 to as far as December 2021, the division reports that four million jobs were open in key skilled trades industries—more than double the number of vacancies pre-pandemic. Today, thousands of those open positions still remain, with most of the openings found in the following niche industries:
“With so few young workers joining the skilled trades, there is real imperative for employers to develop programs that will attract new talent, while investing in and retaining their existing workforce,” said Jill Quinn, Executive Leader of PeopleReady Skilled Trades, at the time. “With thousands of openings in the skilled trades today, employers who find innovative ways to instill a sense of belonging and pride within their workforce and the skilled trades as a whole will have a competitive advantage for the future.”
Workforce Developments in NYC
According to a press release, the latest initiative in New York City helps to set the stage for the Adams administration’s newly announced citywide talent development strategy, set forth in Executive Order 22.
The executive order reportedly aligns with nearly two dozen city agencies and offices that administer workforce training and job placement programs, in addition to education institutions. The order will also create a Future of Workers Task Force to consider and inform every aspect of the city’s strategy for empowering New Yorkers to secure and succeed in family-sustaining careers.
The task force will be staffed by the Mayor’s Office of Talent and Workforce Development—in partnership with CUNY and the DOE—employers and other key stakeholders.
Specifically, PINCC will focus on all three phases of the employment cycle: recruitment and training, job placement, retention and advancement.
The program projects to train nearly 2,300 New Yorkers and help place them in high-wage and/or unionized jobs with benefits in roles like diesel mechanic, general utility worker, tradesperson or construction project manager.
“New York City deserves a workforce that reflects the diversity of its people,” said Deputy Mayor for Strategic Initiatives Sheena Wright. “With the signing of this executive order, we move one step closer to building a more equitable, fairer workforce that meets the pressing economic needs of our time while prioritizing inclusivity.”
The press release went on to note that participants in the program will be targeted for specific interest in construction and industrial careers, matched with training appropriate for their skills and ambitions, and placed and provided ongoing support through an extensive set of employer relationships.
In its entirety, the executive order will also:
“Our economic recovery and future prosperity depend on the diverse talents of all New Yorkers connecting to and helping to create opportunity,” said Abby Jo Sigal, executive director, Mayor’s Office of Talent and Workforce Development. “Talent is New York City’s most important resource, and what makes our city great. The signing of the executive order, convening the Future of Workers Taskforce, and implementing PINCC are the critical first steps to building a citywide strategy to fully tap this talent so that every New Yorker can contribute to an inclusive, thriving economy. "
The Office of Talent and Workforce Development Interagency Cabinet will coordinate operations, prepare an annual plan with clear objectives, define key performance indicators and measure progress.
Recent Workforce Investments
In a recent statement, the White House announced that over $40 billion in American Rescue Plan funds have been committed to strengthening and expanding the United States’ workforce.
According to the announcement, the investments in the workforce—along with the American Rescue Plan’s direct payroll support that has saved or restored jobs across a broad set of industries—have contributed to a record 9 million jobs added since President Biden took office.
To highlight the achievements, government officials hosted a half-day White House Summit in July, which highlighted top American Rescue Plan workforce best practices from governors, mayors and county leaders across the country. The summit also called on other government officials and private sector leaders to expand investments in the workforce.
Overall, the summit was noted to focus on thee major areas of the American Rescue Plan investment:
Through these initiatives, it was reported that President Joe Biden and Vice President Harris launched the Administration’s Infrastructure Talent Pipeline Challenge. The program reportedly encourages partnerships by the public and private sectors to ensure a strong and diverse workforce to help rebuild the nation’s infrastructure and supply chains.
Around the same time, U.S. Secretary of Commerce Gina Raimondo announced that $500 million in government funding was awarded to 32 industry-led workforce training partnerships across the nation from a pool of 509 applicants.
The grant awards are part of the Good Jobs Challenge, an effort through President Joe Biden’s American Rescue Plan to enable communities across the country to invest in innovative approaches to workforce development and secure job opportunities for more than 50,000 Americans.
The funding is slated to advance a broad range of sectors, including: agriculture and food production; energy and resilience; healthcare; manufacturing; and information technology. The funding is also expected to jumpstart the design, development, implementation and expansion of training programs that are tailored specifically to each community.
Furthermore, the department reports that the awarded projects will expand access to the workforce and increase labor participation through a focus on job quality and equity.
While numerous efforts have taken place on a national level, some companies have gone as far as to act on their own to improve the workforce. Earlier this month, modular home building startup Module launched the Last Mile Lab, a construction innovation lab and workforce training program.
Located in Pittsburgh, the facility is supported by funding from the Richard King Mellon Foundation.