“We’re here today to talk about the future of Long Island,” U.S. Rep. Tom Suozzi, a Democrat from Glen Cove, said at the Composite Prototyping Center in Plainview on Feb. 21. Standing alongside Nassau County Executive Laura Curran, Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone and Kevin Law, president and CEO of the Long Island Association, Suozzi introduced plans for the Long Island Apprenticeship and Workforce Development Task Force.
Its objective, he said, is to centralize all of Long Island’s job-training resources and make them accessible on a website. The information will be gathered at Suozzi’s, Curran’s and Bellone’s offices.
The task force’s goal is to make it easier for employers to reach out to potential hires and for job seekers to find apprenticeships. Those looking for work will also benefit from a list of training programs that will help them land jobs.
“We already have many job training and apprentice programs [on Long Island],” Curran said, alluding to entities such as BOCES, Nassau and Suffolk community colleges and various workforce development boards. “We want to bring all of this together and create one-stop shopping for all of it. The mission is to concentrate what we already have and see how we can build it and streamline it.”
Suozzi said that the training programs are ideal for people who can’t afford or don’t want to go to college, options he said he fully supports. “There is too much of a stigma associated with not going to college and going through these training programs,” he said, noting that 60 percent of Americans never go to college and only 30 percent of workers on Long Island have college degrees.
Employers are not necessarily looking for people with degrees, Suozzi said. Rather, they are searching for particular sets of skills that workers can develop through job-training programs. These, he added, are pivotal, especially on Long Island, because of the area’s high cost of living.
The task force will spend the next three months working with area workforce development and job-training programs to bring all of those services together. The aim is to compile all of the information necessary to get the program running by Memorial Day, according to Suozzi. Once a plan is created, a website with all of the necessary information for workers will be launched. When the site is active, the task force will share the information about the services through media outlets and the offices of Curran and Bellone.
Much of the current funding for Long Island’s training providers and workforce development boards comes from the U.S. Department of Labor, in the form of grants from the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act, enacted by President Obama in 2014. John Sarcone, the director of the Town of Oyster Bay’s local workforce development board, said he was looking forward to working with the task force, citing the possibility of new ideas for using WIOA funding to further the board’s ability to help residents find jobs.
“If this task force that’s being developed by [Suozzi] has any suggestions that are helpful in the delivery of those funds, it’s great for us,” Sarcone said. “There can be initiatives that we may not know for municipalities like Glen Cove, Oyster Bay and North Hempstead.”
“The goal is to use the money in the programs we have now to make it easier for employees to say, ‘Hey, I want a good job.’” Suozzi said. “You can just go on a website and find out where you can go to get trained for a job where the employers are looking for that type of trained employee.”
“We need for people to invest in getting a career, not a job,” he added. “They’re going to get skills so they can get a job that pays enough money so they can have a decent life.”