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October 21, 2022

Key Takeaways from President Williams’s Speech on the Bridging the Skills Gap

On Friday, October 21, New York Fed President John Williams spoke about bridging the gap between the needs of employers and the job training available to potential workers, particularly in New York’s Columbia and Greene Counties.

At a forum sponsored by the Berkshire Taconic Community Foundation, Columbia-Greene Community College, Columbia Economic Development Corporation, and Greene County Economic Development Corporation, President Williams said:

“Employers can’t find enough skilled workers — and workers can’t obtain the skills they need to move up the economic ladder.”

“Developing career-building programs that meet the needs of local employers and are accessible to job seekers is critical to bridging the skills gap.”

“Collaboration is a key component of any successful program.”

President Williams said that throughout the Federal Reserve’s Second District, labor shortages and the skills gap are issues he hears about consistently.

In addition to significant worker shortages, Columbia and Greene Counties are home to an aging population. “Over the past 20 years, the size of the workforce here has declined as the population has stagnated,” President Williams said. “Residents here are older — the median age is late 40s, as opposed to late 30s for all of New York State. In some cases, residents don’t need more training — they need retraining so they can obtain new jobs.”

President Williams said when talking about economic prosperity, he likes to use the analogy of a Jenga tower. “Each piece is critical to the stability of the whole,” he said. “Take one piece out, and the tower becomes unstable. Take the wrong piece out, and the whole tower can collapse.”

For workers, important pieces of the tower include job training, accessibility to career-building programs and jobs, and having reliable broadband. Businesses need resources to innovate and grow. And collaboration among employers, schools, nonprofits, funders, and community organizations is critical to the tower’s foundation. “You are what makes our tower strong,” President Williams said.

While there is no one-size-fits-all approach to overcoming barriers to employment, President Williams said there are many promising efforts. These include initiatives and research from the Federal Reserve System, many of which are outlined in Investing in America’s Workforce.

Community colleges also play an integral role in workforce development programs. And collaboration among community stakeholders is another critical component.

“By joining together, we can advance the economic resilience of rural areas like Columbia and Greene Counties — and strengthen our Jenga tower,” he said.

Read the full speech.

Judy DeHaven is an executive communications specialist at the New York Fed.

This article was originally published by the New York Fed on Medium.

The views expressed in this article are those of the contributing authors and do not necessarily reflect the position of the New York Fed or the Federal Reserve System.


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