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Tucker is director of the Office of Business and Community Relations at SUNY Oswego and director of the Workforce Development Board of Oswego County.

Chena Tucker

Workforce development leader: Oswego County still faces gaps in mid-level technical jobs, a lack of basic foundation or soft skills

By Lou Sorendo

In general terms, how would you characterize the skills gap in Oswego County?

Oswego County continues to experience gaps in mid-level-technical jobs (electrical, industrial, trades, entry-level health care) and a lack of basic foundation or soft skills. Many employers have become active and vocal partners in finding solutions to address the skills gaps. For example, the number of employers who have taken advantage of on-the-job training programming, which helps cover the costs of training a new employee, has steadily increased since September of 2017. This allows a new worker to learn the skills they need to be successful while earning an income. New services have been added to begin to address the skills gap, such as Pathways In Technology Early College High School, technical high school for the emerging workforce, and the Skillup online learning program that gives Oswego County students free access to more than 5,000 online courses.

What are local employers demanding in terms of skill sets?

Work readiness soft skills such as problem solving, adaptability, time management, organization, oral communication and critical thinking. Also in demand are technical skills in the area of electrical maintenance engineering, skilled trades and information technology.

Are industry businesses partnering with the county toward workforce development?

There are numerous partnerships happening across the workforce system. To point out a couple: Cayuga Community College along with dozens of local and regional employers are in the final stages of development of the Advanced Manufacturing Institute, which will focus on delivering industrial, maintenance and electrical skills training. There are other types of activities as well. We are hosting the Oswego County College and Career Night at SUNY Oswego’s Marano Campus Center from 6:30-8 p.m. April 24. Area students and their parents can learn from employers about the good-paying careers available throughout the region, while coordinating with the colleges who can prepare them for those careers.

Also, in partnership with CenterState CEO, the WDB is working with local health care service providers to implement their successful Work Train program here in Oswego County.

How is the WDB’s One Stop Career Center in Fulton helping to assist in closing the skills gap?

The One Stop Career Center in Fulton is the information and career assistance hub for Oswego County workers looking to find a job or to upgrade their skills for a better-paying job. One Stop Career Center staff work hard to provide guidance to a wide range of workers, including young adult workers aged 16 to 24), those who have lost their jobs, mature workers and others who face barriers to employment. The One-Stop Career Center recently teamed up with Huhtamaki in Fulton to hold a very successful career information and recruiting event to fill several openings it had. Approximately 250 job seekers met with company representatives to learn about careers in manufacturing.

Can you update us on the Skillup Oswego County initiative?

Since it was launched in 2017, over 740 county residents have signed up for a free account through Metrix as part of the Skillup initiative. These individuals spent over 803 training hours while earning more than 576 certificates and digital badges. The most popular courses were in project management, Microsoft Word and Excel, the Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, human resources, accounting, food industry standards, leadership and team building.