Question and Answer with Katy Gaul-Stigge on Career Pathways

2015 Winter Newsletter, Policy Updates

On November 21, Mayor Bill de Blasio and the Jobs for New Yorkers Task Force released their plan for New York City’s workforce development system.  The announcement took place at Lehman College in the Bronx, highlighted NYACH as a model industry partnership that brings together industry and education and featured students from NYACH’s Medical Assistant Training and RN Transition to Practice Certificate Program.  The recommendations in the report, Career Pathways: One City Working Together, include launching or expanding industry partnerships, establishing career pathways as the framework for the City’s workforce system, improving job quality, and improving coordination between city agencies.  In the following interview, Katy Gaul-Stigge, the Executive Director of the newly created Mayor’s Office of Workforce Development, which will be leading this effort, elaborates on these themes.

Q: Why do you think industry partnerships are a strong model for workforce development? 

A: Industry partnerships are at the core of our Career Pathways strategy to overhaul New York City’s workforce development system because without knowing the industry needs we “train and pray” and industry is left with a lack of qualified labor. Industry Partnerships – in six sectors identified in the report: Health, Technology, Construction, Manufacturing, Retail and Food Service – are central in implementing Career Pathways’ three pillars: Building Skills Employers Seek, Improving Job Quality, and Increasing System and Policy Coordination.   All in an effort to provide the training and education job-seekers need to advance upward with income mobility. In order for New Yorkers to gain the skills they need, we need to seriously engage employers to understand what skills they need to hire.

In essence, we’re looking to build on the model NYACH has provided for the healthcare industry, highlighting the “feedback loops” between employers, unions, educators, and trainers that have allowed us to match our training investments to the skills employers need. NYACH and its partners also provide an excellent example of how to engage multiple stakeholders, including 1199 SEIU Training and Employment Funds, GNYHA, CHCANYS, SNYA, PHI, CUNY and SBS, to launch training that is specific and demand driven. Industry Partnerships should never been seen in isolation; they must share information with the whole system to make this vision work.

Q: The report identifies career pathways as the framework for future training investments.  What are the key tenets of a career pathways approach and how is this different than current approaches to training?

A: In order to truly have a career pathways approach the strategy must be sector specific, engage directly with businesses, and allow for multiple entry and exit points for participants along the pathway. The data show that when these pieces are in place training participants earn greater wages and experience greater job retention, leading to improved job quality and income mobility.

Q: What do you think will be the biggest challenge to raising job quality? What strategies could be helpful in confronting this challenge?

A: We see a great opportunity to support businesses in raising the bar when it comes to job quality.  Studies have shown there to be great benefit to businesses’ bottom lines when their employees are able to truly support themselves and their families through benefits, consistent schedules, and living wages. We want to recognize high-road employers who have good businesses practices and support others who may not yet have the resources to do so.

Q: What are the next steps for the Mayor’s Office of Workforce Development on improving coordination system-wide?

A: We are now fully in the implementation stages of the Mayor’s vision of a coordinated system for workforce development. All ten of the recommendations begin this year!  One of the next steps on coordination include creating the foundation – shared metrics, contract requirements, processes, and data systems – for a truly coordinated workforce system with our City agency partners.