Otsego Has Jobs; No One To Do Them

2ND ANNUAL WORKFORCE SUMMIT:

Otsego Has Jobs;

No One To Do Them

However, Workforce Training $$,

‘Knowledge Economy’ Offer Hope

Chris Chase, president of Directive, the Oneonta technology company, contributes in a breakout session on attracting “knowledge workers” at today’s Workforce Summit. He is flanked by Directive’s Kristen Velasco, left, and Kerri Green, new president of Commerce Chenango, the chamber or commerce there. (Jim Kevlin/AllOTSEGO.com)

By JIM KEVLIN • Special to www.AllOTSEGO.com

Madhuril Kommareddi, new director of the Cuomo Administration’s Office of Workforce Development, reports on a “historic” $176 million allocation.

ONEONTA  – Otsego County has more jobs than workers to do them.

That message surfaced from a number of presenters at today’s Pathways to Prosperity, the Otsego County Chamber of Commerce’s second annual Workforce Summit at SUNY Oneonta’s Morris Hall:

  • Madhuril Kommareddi, Governor Cuomo’s new Workforce Development director, appointed in May, reported the Upstate unemployment rate is 3.8 percent – 4 percent is considered “full employment.” With that in mind, she said, the focus needs to be on “employer-driven skills,” training people for specific skills for jobs that aren’t being filled.
  • “There are a lot of jobs to fill, and not a lot of candidates to fill them,” said Perry Dewey, DCMO BOCES superintendent, who served on a panel with two other BOCES’ superintendents, Nick Savin and Sandra Sherwood. Within 25 miles of Sidney, Dewey reported, there are 800 available jobs, and 20 percent of workers are due to retire within five years.
  • “Our challenge now is our low unemployment rate,” echoed Christian Harris, the state Department of Labor’s market analyst for Otsego County. He also reported that the number of jobs available in the county has dropped from 26,000 to 22,000, although economist now view the county as a “job growth” area.

Nonetheless, the gathering of 120 employers – up from 100 last year at the first summit, held at The Otesaga – was not downbeat.

Al Cleinman renewed his call for a “knowledge economy.”

Al Cleinman, who runs Cleinman Performance Partners, the Oneonta-headquartered national consultancy to the optometry profession, renewed his call for “knowledge workers,” a call that electrified last year’s summit.  “In 30 years, we have not earned a single dime in Otsego County,” he said.  With a $1.5 million annual payroll, “we are a net importer of income.”

He ticked off a list of similar knowledge-based businesses, from the colleges to healthcare to financial services.  “Otsego County is full of knowledge businesses,” he said, but added, “I would suggest to you, it’s not enough.”

Small steps can have a big impact, he continued:  If the county could just retain 2 percent of the annual graduates from SUNY Oneonta and Hartwick College – 26 people – that would convert into 414 “knowledge workers” over decades who – as Cleinman Performance Partners is doing – could generate millions imported from elsewhere.

State Sen. Jim Seward, center, co-sponsor of today’s chamber Workforce Summit, confers with, from left, Assemblyman John Salka, R-Brookfield; Dona Siregar, SUNY Oneonta associate professor of finance; Wade Thomas, dean and professor of economics; Custom Electronics President Mike Pentaris, and Milford Supt. of Schools Mark Place.

He ended his presentation by leading a brainstorming session among attendees – “high quality Internet” was identified at several of the tables as a hurdle to the “knowledge economy” – and the findings will be posted on the Otsego Chamber’s Facebook page.

Kommareddi, a Yale Law School grad with experience in the Obama White House and the Clinton Foundation, reported the state Legislature appropriated “a historic amount” – $176 million – to workforce development over the summer.

What’s more – in contrast to CFA economic development grant applications, due every July – there are “no deadlines.”  Applications for funding can be submitted when ready.

However, the new program is results-oriented, she said.  Applications must have “targets” and projected “outcomes,” she said, noting that a $10 million application from New York City was recently rejected for lacking those very things.


3 thoughts on “Otsego Has Jobs; No One To Do Them

  1. Brian hildenbrand

    Go to welfare rolls, SS I rolls, in Otsego County and check off those pretending and ask for proof of their situation. If anyone in the medical field is caught to be lying can and will be prosecuted to the fullest. Anyone receiving county assistance should be asked to come to an office to collect their funds. While there, they should present documents to substantiate their assistance. People reviewing documents should be familiar with medical field.

    Wow, look how much you save monthly and put back into the workforce. Thank you.

  2. Mary Robinson

    In Otsego County, the lack of Internet in rural areas is a setback. Also transportation is a hurdle as cars (and fuel) are expensive to buy and maintain. Many people don’t realize the power/potential of the Internet: that you can learn anything — there are courses from MIT for free and Raspberry Pi computers (about $35) are phenomenal. The community could come together by creating a maker space. When I bring that topic up, people usually don’t know what it is. We need to open our minds and see the unlimited possibilities. (If you have trouble with that I recommend Wim Hof Method). I hope Maker Spaces were on the agenda at the Workforce Summit.

  3. Doug Kendall

    So where are these 800 “available” jobs and where are they advertised? How many pay a living wage? Are employers used to paying low wages in times of high unemployment unwilling to offer higher pay to recruit qualified workers? The “Workforce Summit” seems to be heavy on advice from employers, business groups and government officials. Who spoke for the workers? Were any invited? There’s no evidence of worker involvement in this article…that could help explain why employers are having difficulty recruiting them!

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