Addressing the Skills Gap

December 6, 2012

Todd Oldham
MCC Vice President
Economic Development

The U.S. economy is projected to create as many as 21 million job openings through 2020. If current trends prevail, shortages of qualified candidates are likely in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) fields and some health care categories, according to McKinsey Global Institute’s “An Economy that Works” report.

The national picture holds true in New York as well. The demand for middle-skill workers–those with more than a high school diploma but not a four-year degree–is projected to remain high through 2018, with 39 percent of all job openings requiring associate degrees or vocational credentials.

Yet gaps in skills threaten to undermine these opportunities for the workforce. It could mean thousands of well-paid jobs in areas ranging from construction and manufacturing to computers, health care, and the STEM fields possibly going unfilled, according to the National Skills Coalition’s “New York’s Forgotten Middle-Skill Jobs” report. In response, Monroe Community College has partnered with Economic Modeling Specialists, Inc. to provide a free web-based, career-exploration tool anyone in New York State can use to find out which jobs are in demand, help clarify their occupational interests, and chart their career path.

MCC Career Coach provides up-to-date local employment data, such as current and projected job openings within 100 miles of Rochester, estimated earnings, and occupations that require similar skills and knowledge, as well as specific MCC educational programs that will prepare an individual for a given profession. The data come from nearly 90 federal, state and private sources, including the U.S. Department of Labor, Census Bureau and jobs listing site. This tool provides users with a clear connection between a particular program of study and tangible opportunities in the job market.

Todd M. Oldham is Vice President of Economic Development and Innovative Workforce Services Division at Monroe Community College. MCC is an active member of the Finger Lakes STEM Hub.

Finger Lakes STEM Hub Launch

April 30, 2012

Sara Silverstone

Each month since December of 2010 I have had the privilege to facilitate a remarkable collaborative group of leaders in education, government, higher ed and community organizations as we developed a regional Hub of the Empire State STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) Learning Network. We developed a mission, vision, goals, working committees and action items for the year. In the past week we began inviting influential community leaders to join our Board of Champions. We have big plans and a wonderful, energetic and diverse group to carry them out. This is networking at its best!

Nearly every day I read about economic problems whose solution is to develop a technically trained workforce who can fill the jobs of the 21st Century. Students graduate without the skills employers are desperately seeking, and as a result, half of all of recent college graduates are either jobless or underemployed while great jobs are remain unfilled. Clearly there is a gap between what we are teaching our young people and what they need to learn in order to find good jobs.

What can leaders from business and education do about this disconnect, which adversely affects everybody?  By coming together in agreement about the elements of a high-quality 21st Century education and ensuring that that is what our students receive, the double-edged problem of unemployment and lack of a skilled workforce can be addressed. For too long, industry and education operated in separate silos, unaware and unconcerned about their common needs.

With the launch of the Finger Lakes STEM Hub, our region joins a statewide and national STEM learning network which enables all constituencies to acknowledge our common goals and work across sectors to address our nations most pressing technical and economic problems.

Over the next few weeks, participants in the Finger Lakes STEM Hub will share their perspective on how STEM education can address our most pressing problems and how the Finger Lakes STEM Hub can contribute to these solutions.