Dear NYCETC Member,
Last month, our colleagues at the Workforce Field Building Hub released their 2018 Workforce Agenda for NYC – the culmination of nearly a year’s worth of research that explored the structure, challenges, and priorities of New York City’s workforce development sector. The NYC Employment and Training Coalition (NYCETC) — along with dozens of our more than 150 members, as well government and philanthropic partners — contributed directly to the report through interviews that shared the voice and and priorities of the practitioners that deliver workforce programs throughout the city. We applaud the creation of the report and encourage you to read the full 2018 Workforce Agenda for NYC when you can. The report emphasizes to our partners in government and philanthropy the need to substantially improve and increase their cooperation with New York’s best workforce providers.
In my first 8 months, I have met with countless members, as well as partners in the government, philanthropic and employer communities, with a goal of better understanding how the Coalition can support our shared agenda of a stronger, interconnected workforce system. Below are two of the key recommendations made in the report that resonate most strongly with the Coalition’s present and future activities and advocacy priorities — priorities that we are committed to fighting for alongside our partners in the community.
The first recommendation of the report — “Confront Systemic Barriers” — is aimed squarely at policy failures that have prevented our City government from fostering a workforce system that would lift the 800,000 New Yorkers living in poverty into rewarding careers.
Several specific elements reflect areas that the Coalition has and will continue to advocate for:
- “Price RFPs and grant programs accurately.” Our Coalition strongly supports this honest and urgent recommendation. For too long, workforce providers have been asked and expected to achieve greater and greater returns on the same limited amount of investment in their programs. New York’s workforce sector is not immune from the rising costs of the city or the rising skill demands of employers. Just as with the rest of New York’s human services sector, we cannot simply do more with less. That is why we at NYCETC have been partners with the Human Services Council, FPWA, UNH, and many others on the Strong Nonprofits campaign. We’ve drawn attention to this issue in our advocacy and communications, as in this OpEd we co-wrote with NYC Comptroller Scott Stringer.
- “Align economic development strategies with workforce development.” The need to link the City’s multi-billion-dollar economic development approach with its underfunded workforce training programs has long been a theme in our advocacy. This is particularly evident in the disconnect between the Mayor’s unfulfilled Career Pathways vision, which has virtually no connection to his flashy 100,000 Jobs initiative. In today’s labor market, we know there are jobs, but the Coalition has been asking a crucial question — “jobs for whom?” — highlighted in a New York Times article about the disconnect between the City’s economic and workforce development.
The fourth recommendation — “Launch a professional Advocacy Campaign” — calls for broader support for, and engagement in, advocacy for the workforce sector, including the involvement of more business and labor leaders. Since coming on board earlier this year, I am pleased that the strategy we’ve since instituted is aligned to this recommendation made by members and other leaders in the field. However, this work is just beginning. The pressure felt by the Administration is clearly not yet enough and, while uncomfortable as it may be for some of our organizations, applying pressure on the Administration, while simultaneously maintaining and building relationships within, is necessary to achieve implementation of the agenda.
- “Develop relationships with new allies.” The call for business, labor, educational, and philanthropic communities to be part of our strong voice for workforce is the bedrock of our organizational strategy. At our recent NYCETC 2018 Conference we made a point of bringing both new and established leaders of the city’s business and labor communities to our stage, and inviting them to join the effort to build innovative solutions for an equitable workforce.
- “Demand explicit ‘asks’ that include not only funding but also restructuring.” We need both increased funding AND a better focus on the clients, communities, skills, and sectors where investment can do the most good. This dual need has been the focus of the Coalition’s advocacy priorities for the last year and a half, including my eight month tenure, and will continue to be the core focus of our activities over the coming years.
- “Direct these asks explicitly at the political, not agency, levels.” We have learned, alongside our more than 150 members, that no matter how far we succeed in convincing the staff at agencies such as DYCD, SBS, HRA and others that there is great value in investing in workforce development, that investment will not come without our political leaders becoming true champions of workforce development and demanding that it be adequately funded and resourced. That’s why we began to pivot our advocacy last year to a more forceful tone, linked not to the agencies, but to priorities for the Mayor and City Council — and all individuals who aspire to sit in those offices. We have done so by publishing articles and op-eds in the Daily News, NY Nonprofit Media, Crain’s and other outlets; and were thrilled to partner in the launch of the “Our Jobs Our Future” campaign, which kicked off in June with a City Hall rally and terrific coverage in the New York Times to put political pressure on the Administration to turn the tide against the “gentrification of jobs.”
NYCETC is excited to partner with our members, employer partners, The Hub and other intermediaries, government and philanthropic leaders to ensure these recommendations are fulfilled in our shared effort to achieve a fair and equitable city for all who reside in it.
At our November 29th Policy and Advocacy Strategy Session, we will discuss how our 2019 advocacy strategy and how it builds on the findings of this workforce agenda. Invitation to follow.
As always, we welcome feedback and questions.
Jose Ortiz, Jr.
NYC Employment & Training Coalition