After a successful first year, the Otsego Now Workforce Training Center is moving into a period of change and transition.

Center Director Dawn Rivers will be leaving Otsego Now to pursue graduate studies in anthropology at the University of North Carolina this coming fall. Dawn came to Otsego Now about two years ago, after graduating from Hartwick College with a degree in economics and anthropology.

To assume responsibility for the Workforce Training Center, Otsego Now has retained the services of Patrick J. Doyle of Doyle Consulting. Patrick brings fifteen years of economic development experience and close to a decade of workforce development experience to the position. He is the former executive director of Broome-Tioga Works and has spent years in business development in Broome County. With his experience in developing partnerships, we could not ask for a better fit for our efforts in workforce development.

Since the Workforce Training Center launched in October 2015, Otsego Now has pursued an open enrollment model in which job seekers would complete an application and come to the Center for pre-employment training. However, Otsego County is currently in the happy position of being at what economists call “full employment” (that is, 5.1% unemployment), which tends to make prospective trainees difficult to find. We have determined that open enrollment in such a tight labor market is untenable.

Rather than competing with local businesses for a relatively small labor pool – especially when we are at a competitive disadvantage, since we don’t pay our trainees – Dawn and Patrick are working together to forge partnerships through which Otsego Now can help those businesses prepare new hires and upwardly mobile workers. This will be an important task because many of the county’s top employers are facing a spate of upcoming retirements, and those positions cannot be filled by entry level workers. By hiring from within, however, the companies move people up the company ladder, making room for new hires to start a potential rewarding career.

Fortunately, our other activities from earlier this year stand us in good stead to rework our training programs to better fit the labor market. We have visited almost all our mid-sized employers in the area, conducting site surveys that gave us a clearer understanding of their needs. We have also reached out to our school district superintendents to discuss workforce pipeline planning and welcomed them to a presentation by a Labor Department regional representative hosted for them by Otsego Now.

Other ongoing projects at the Workforce Training Center include our outreach efforts to potential higher education partners to explore more advanced training programs, conversations with community colleges about a possible satellite location in Oneonta, and discussions with K-12 schools and the ONC BOCES in support of a new Partnership in Technology-Early College High school (P-TECH) program in Otsego County.

We hope you will join us in congratulating Dawn and wishing her well, and in welcoming Patrick to the Otsego Now team. And we’ll continue to keep you up to date about all the exciting projects in process at the Otsego Now Workforce Training Center.