Medium.com: On the Road Again: Syracuse, Ithaca, and Rochester Aim for a More Inclusive Economy
For our third regional visit of the year, we traveled to Syracuse, Ithaca, and Rochester. The stops on our trip varied widely — from visiting a drone accelerator site, to meeting with members working on an anti-poverty initiative. Throughout, we heard from community leaders about their efforts to address challenges, such as developing a strong workforce and tackling poverty. We also learned about the promising industries in their communities and their hopes for future growth.
Here, we would like to share key takeaways from this roadshow.
Importance of Workforce Development and Education
The trip began at Onondaga Community College (OCC) in Syracuse, with remarks by President Dudley about the challenges workers face as they try to adapt to an evolving economy. President Dudley emphasized that because “there is no silver bullet or one-size-fits-all solution,” a holistic approach — focused on partnerships, programs, and placement opportunities — is critical.
Throughout the rest of the roadshow, we heard firsthand from community leaders who said that residents are falling behind in the workforce and described efforts to help them obtain jobs. OCC leadership and Syracuse workforce development practitioners underscored the need for more programs that “demystify work” and provide soft skills training, especially for students, who do not have prior experience in professional environments. Syracuse community leaders also expressed concerns about the quality of jobs available, noting that most jobs do not provide living wages.
At OCC, and later at Monroe Community College (MCC) in Rochester, academic leaders said that a growing number of students are unprepared for college-level courses. They explained that remedial courses — often taken by students over the summer in an effort to get up to speed before starting school — simply are not enough to overcome a decade of personal and educational challenges. This creates additional burdens on students’ time and finances, dampens college completion levels, and impacts future job potential.
For students, access to basic services can also pose a significant barrier to staying in school and graduating, and many higher education institutions now offer “wraparound services,” like childcare and transportation. Representatives from OCC also underscored the importance of the State University of New York’s Equal Opportunity Program (EOP) and its success in helping students bridge financial gaps. This aligned with what we heard from Rochester community leaders, who stressed the significant education gaps they observed — in terms of learning the curricula itself, but also the necessary life skills for self-sufficiency, such as managing personal finances.
At Genesee Brewery, New York State’s oldest brewery, we learned how the private sector is participating in this effort. Through an investment by New York’s Empire State Development, Genesee is working to expand its facilities, create new jobs, and collaborate with MCC to train students to work in the industry.