Weekly Feature

2017-03-23 / Letters to the Editor

Attention needed for workforce development

This past Friday, I had the opportunity to sit on a panel with five other individuals from business and education at a combined staff development day at Holland High School for Holland and East Aurora High School to discuss better preparing our high school students for the workplace. The panel represented local businesses from a large employer, Moog, to small manufacturers, Inex & Diversified Controls & Systems and a small health services business called Home Helpers.

For many years, the Greater East Aurora Chamber of Commerce has advocated for a stronger focus on career exploration and the development of skills in the technology and trade fields.

What we shared and heard last week reaffirmed what we have supported for years. The skill needs of our up-and-coming workforce do not meet the current or future needs of our employers. The feedback from the approximately 25 teachers in the audience backed that up, especially with teachers experiencing on a daily basis that not all students have the same interests, learn at the same pace or in the same manner.

The strong focus on AP courses and college entrance is misdirected for many students, and generally, this push does not yield the results we hope for our children and grandchildren. The end result is high college debt and a degree that does not fit into the needs of what employers are looking for.

What we continue to hear is that there are many fulfilling, well-paying jobs that are out there for people with the right technical skills that can be learned through a qualified certificate or a two-year college degree program.

We need to turn things around quickly.

Many of our employers will be seeing significant retirement rates within the next few years, with no one to fill in the ranks.

If this situation is not addressed, we will see significant negative economic impacts on our businesses, communities, Main Streets and schools.

Our school boards are already facing very difficult challenges with funding and curriculums. As a community, we need to refocus our priorities and address these issues that affect our future.

Gary D. Grote Executive Director Greater East Aurora Chamber of Commerce

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