City leaders, workforce experts and industry executives gathered at the 2023 NYCETC Conference at the recently opened Civic Hall off Manhattan’s Union Square Wednesday to discuss the city’s workforce development plans post COVID-19.
James Parrott, director of economic and fiscal policies of the Center for New York City Affairs at The New School, spoke of the city's post-pandemic state of economic recovery in a conversation with John Celock, special projects editor at City & State, which co-hosted the event.
“I would sum up the pandemic's effect on the economy, as we're in the process of bouncing back. [The economy is] lagging, uneven, and we have a real quality jobs challenge. We're interested not only in a return to prosperity, but it has to be a prosperity that has a semblance of being broadly shared. And I think that full employment is an important ingredient of having shared prosperity,” said Parrott.
The city’s median household income declined since 2019, followed by increased poverty levels as in-person industries collapsed during the pandemic: from leisure and hospitality, retail, construction, to all levels of work related to maintaining the city’s numerous office spaces.
“We have seen some growth in some areas in tech and finance, [but] that job growth has slowed down significantly in 2023, and a lot of the net job growth that we have seen has been in two or three sectors: home health care and individual and family services,” said Parrott.
Most jobs in home health care are held by women of color, and are often the lowest paid positions in the economy. According to Parrott, the growth of these essential jobs doesn’t necessarily correlate with a better quality of living, as the outlook for the economy is expected to slow further in 2024. Parrott also stressed that the increase in hybrid work led to uneven levels of growth, benefitting only high-income earners with flexible work schedules while compensation for in-person labor continues to stagnate.
New York City School Chancellor David Banks, who sat down to speak with Angie Kamath, dean at the New York University School of Professional Studies, highlighted the Department of Education’s efforts to increase apprenticeships and paid internships for students, equipping young people with post-secondary skills and connections that will help them thrive in the workforce.
“Some of the partners that we have already engaged with are JPMorgan Chase, who is deeply involved with this modern youth apprenticeship work, creating real world opportunities and paid internships for kids. You talk about providing a real incentive for kids,” said Banks.
The chancellor also referred to the recent protest against a pro-Israel teacher at Hillcrest High School and highlighted the importance of keeping education systems informed to meet the demands of today’s youth:
“It is because of the routinization of school that we don't meet the moments and the challenges. Many of you may have read the papers about Hillcrest High School in Queens […] it's shameful and it’s not acceptable. And yet I have to help kids understand how they have to think differently,” spoke Banks.
“And the students were telling me, we're watching all the stuff on social media every day, and then we come to school and nobody talks about it, because the adults are all scared. Nobody wants to be accused of being antisemitic. Nobody wants to be accused of saying anything Islamophobic. So we play it safe. And so my point is, what the kids are demanding is relevance. So meet the moment. Don't just do school. Schooling is different from education,” said Banks.
By building robust partnerships with industry leaders, Banks states that these opportunities will help young people deal with challenges that lay ahead.
Keynote Speaker Maria Torres-Springer, deputy mayor for housing, economic development and workforce, spoke of the administration’s workforce development plans post-COVID-19. From emphasizing private and public partnerships within the educator sector, to aiding the migrant crisis amidst the city’s tightening budget restrictions, Torres-Springer highlighted upcoming features of the Workforce development Board.
“With the signing of executive order 22, which we use to really expand the New York City office of talent and workforce development. […] that executive order was a major step in a broader vision to foster an equitable workforce system that benefitted residents, employers and the economy,” said Torres-Springer.
The Deputy Mayor spoke of the city’s public-private talent investment fund to further its workforce development goals:
“We also launched a new public private talent investment fund, and we put our money where our mouth is, seeding that with $50 million of city resources. We also not just unveiled our moonshot goal, in terms of apprenticeships with 30,000 apprentices by 2030. And in early 2024, we'll be releasing (a request for proposals) that will help us identify partners so that we can fully continue to diversify internship opportunities in the city,” Torres-Springer added.
In addition to leveraging technology by launching new user-friendly portals, Torres-Springer emphasized the administration’s efforts on public-private partnerships to reach economically disadvantaged populations with nearly 40,000 annual jobs.
“We have to use that lever to create more opportunities for people across the five boroughs. … Our work is to really strengthen our talent pipeline through apprenticeships. And in order to do this, we need your ideas, your partnership, your brilliance, your energy, and your support. So in particular, for our industry and employer partners here, please support apprenticeship program pilots, and really embrace apprenticeships essential to your hiring strategies,” Torres-Springer told attendees.
Strengthening communication and cooperation across all areas of business, remained key to the city’s economic revival in 2024.
“There's a difference or real difference between whether we crawl out of these crises, making incremental progress or whether we take a great leap forward as a city,” Torres-Springer said. “And the Great Leap Forward means extraordinary resilience, creativity, and solidarity.”