Many blue-collar jobs are morphing into “new-collar” opportunities that are technology-based, according to some workforce development experts.
As baby boomers continue to retire and many younger workers relocate from regions like Western New York to launch their careers elsewhere, efforts are underway to promote careers in science, engineering, technology and math – or STEM careers.
Experts in economic development and STEM fields gathered at Alfred State College Friday afternoon to discuss trends. The event was titled “The Future Workforce Forum: Closing the Middle Skills STEM Gap."
Cherie Messore, Executive Director of Western New York STEM, believes more students already have the qualifications needed for many jobs.
“This is not your grandfather’s manufacturing plant anymore. Most manufacturing jobs now are technical,” Messore said, “They’re computer science based, and they’re computer based. So students who are going to school now who are interested in computer science, who are interested in computer technology are perfectly poised to take any one of these jobs.”
Alfred State, like many educational institutions, offers internships and hand-on training to students interested in the science and technology fields.
Experts insist there are plenty of job opportunities in the science and technology fields in Western New York. However, the region struggles to keep local graduates.
“Baby boomers are retiring, blue-collar jobs are being replaced by technology based jobs and they’re being rebranded as new-collar jobs. Younger workers continue to leave the area to launch their careers in other regions. And that leaves a gap in our current workforce and also leaves a gap in an emerging workforce.”
Forum participants included an official from the Business Council of New York State, the state Department of Labor, workforce training experts and economic development officials.
Terra Harter contributed to this report.