Seven-Pronged Initiative Will Overhaul Workforce Development in New York to Focus on Regional Needs, Expand Access to New Careers and Career Services, and Recruit the Next Generation of New York’s Labor Force

Plan Will Establish New York as a National Model for the Employment of Individuals with Disabilities and Strengthen Protections for All Workers

Governor Kathy Hochul today announced a comprehensive plan to strengthen New York’s workforce and help grow the economy as part of the 2022 State of the State. This seven-pronged initiative reimagines and overhauls New York’s approach to workforce development by focusing on regional needs, creating and expanding access to career services and the jobs of tomorrow, and identifying innovative ways to build the workforce of the future. 

“The pandemic had caused tremendous damage to our workforce, and in order to come back stronger, we must be creative with our approach and work directly with regional partners who have been on the ground helping connect New Yorkers with employment,” Governor Hochul said. “By taking a comprehensive approach that addresses this issue from multiple angles, we can tailor our solutions to best meet the needs of that particular region, industry or worker.”  

New York’s workforce has not yet fully recovered from the pandemic downturn. As of Fall 2021, New York’s job deficit was three times greater than the national average, and higher by some measures than any other state. Employers in some high-demand industries have a seen a surge in open positions, while those in some essential sectors are struggling to retain and recruit top talent. 

To advance meaningful job opportunities and support industries across the State, Governor Hochul will overhaul the state’s approach to workforce development, while at the same time invest in a full spectrum of programs to unlock career opportunities that prepare more New Yorkers for the jobs of the future.

To accomplish this, the Governor will:   

Create the Office of Workforce and Economic Development to Overhaul the State’s Workforce Development Efforts and Focus on Region-Specific Needs  

To meet the needs of both workers and businesses, while also recognizing the differences between regional economies, Governor Hochul will create the Office of Workforce and Economic Development to drive workforce development across the state.

Managed by Empire State Development and administered through the Regional Economic Development Councils in conjunction with the Department of Labor, the State University of New York and the City University of New York, the new Office will leverage Empire State Development’s relationships with employers throughout the state, and standing as a trusted partner in the business community to help identify employer needs early and train New Yorkers to meet these needs. To ensure flexibility to meet changing needs, each REDC will help determine workforce development funding on a real-time, continual basis (as opposed to an annual funding cycle) to generate a pipeline of new workers for regionally-significant industries.   

Additionally, Governor Hochul will strengthen the Office of New Americans’ successful workforce development programming, which aims to support new Americans across the career path through a variety of initiatives. 

Help More New Yorkers Move Between Education and Career  

Governor Hochul will implement a plan to make it easier for New Yorkers to move between education and career, providing students with pathways and assistance to earn credentials on their own time and in a cost-effective manner. 

Components of this plan include: 

  • Expanding part-time Tuition Assistance Programs, allowing parents and dislocated workers to attend school without upending their lives, serving 75,000 students; 
  • Providing financial support for non-degree workforce training at CUNY and SUNY; 
  • Develop public-private funding partnerships to create new internship opportunities for SUNY and CUNY students; 
  • Establishing a policy that would enable work experiences to count toward degree credits; and 
  • Incentivizing concurrent enrollment programs around credit achievement and matriculation

Expand Access to Apprenticeships  

Registered apprenticeships are an important tool for economic mobility, but not all New Yorkers are able to take advantage of such programs. Currently, the State has nearly 18,400 active apprentices in 975 registered apprenticeship programs, with 40 percent of programs in high-growth fields such as IT, healthcare, and advanced manufacturing.

To help expand access to apprenticeships in these emerging fields, Governor Hochul will: 

  • Increase funding for apprenticeship programs at SUNY and CUNY; 
  • Extend the Empire State Apprenticeship Tax Credit and further incentivize employers to hire disadvantaged youth;
  • Support apprentices in high-growth industries, targeting underrepresented groups such as women and people of color;
  • Create a pre-apprenticeship portal to help more New Yorkers find programs that are right for them;
  • Support direct-entry pre-apprenticeships as well as organizations supporting pre-apprenticeships; and
  • Make qualified apprenticeship expenses eligible for spending out of college savings (529) accounts 

Recruit the Next Generation of Public Servants  

With more than a quarter of the State workforce eligible to retire within the next 5 years, it is imperative that New York continue to attract the best and brightest to public service careers so we can continue meeting the needs of those we serve.

To fill this gap and build a robust pipeline of diverse new talent into the State workforce, Governor Hochul will: 

  • Make Civil Service Exams More Accessible: New Department of Civil Service testing centers will be established at designated SUNY college campuses throughout the State to make it easier for students and jobseekers to take exams within their own community and improve recruitment and employment opportunities for diverse populations. 
  • Promote Diverse Hiring: To help state agencies hire the best and brightest as quickly as possible, Governor Hochul will propose legislation to change Civil Service Law to accelerate the hiring of qualified diverse candidates to public service careers and streamline hiring practices. 
  • Maintain Civil Service Exam Integrity: The Department of Civil Service will expand efforts to ensure that civil service exams are maintaining the highest standards of integrity and equity. 

Expand the State’s Technology Talent Pipeline  

Every day, New Yorkers engage with more and more digital government services, a trend that has accelerated since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic. As the need for those services has grown, so has the need for technical talent to build, deliver, and improve those services. Governor Hochul will expand the tech talent pipeline by increasing exposure to technical roles in government service through internships, fellowships, and mid-career opportunities.

As part of this effort, the Governor will: 

  • Establish a new fellowship program to build on the success of the Excelsior Service Fellowship Program: This initiative will draw candidates from schools across New York, including from backgrounds historically underrepresented in technology, to provide graduates the opportunity to enter public service for two years right out of school. 
  • Establish a new Digital SWAT Team: This program will offer mid-career technologists the opportunity to spend an 18-month stint in government, working to accelerate the State’s ability to deliver quality digital services for New Yorkers. 

Make New York a Model for the Employment of Workers with Disabilities  

In recent years, only about one-third of working-age New Yorkers with disabilities held jobs — ranking 38th in the nation. To make New York a national leader in this area, Governor Hochul will work to expand job opportunities in high-growth areas for workers with disabilities by:

  • Creating an Office of the Chief Disability Officer: Governor Hochul will create the Office of the Chief Disability Officer to serve as an advocate for the needs of persons with disabilities and ensure the opportunity to exercise all the rights and responsibilities accorded to the citizens of this state and accorded to persons with disabilities, which will include addressing the multiple factors preventing more people with disabilities from finding meaningful employment. The Office will be charged with making specific, action-oriented employment recommendations around:
  • Ensuring businesses remain committed to employing people with disabilities and have the necessary toolkits to do so; 
  • Reducing barriers faced by companies in hiring people with disabilities and by workers in finding these roles;
  • Leveraging federal and State tax credits; 
  • Updating the 2015 Employment First recommendations; 
  • Identifying the best use of existing State-funded training and employment programs as well as Adult Careet and Continuing Education Services-Vocational Rehabilitation; and 
  • Expanding New York State’s Commission for the Blind’s Business Enterprise Program
  • Commit New York State Government to Becoming a Model Employer: To set an example for other states to follow and increase the number of workers with disabilities employed by New York’s public sector, Governor Hochul will charge the State Department of Civil Service to work with other state agencies and labor unions to improve the Civil Service 55 b/c programs, which authorize the State to designate up to 1,200 positions in the non-competitive class to be filled by qualified people with disabilities and up to 500 positions to be filled by qualified wartime veterans with disabilities. This program will be updated to allow for the transfer of non-competitive employees in the 55-b and 55-c programs into the competitive class, as long as they meet the requirements for competitive examination, to allow for more rapid career mobility. Additionally, key State agencies will create trainings for State employees to better support individuals with disabilities. 
  • Enhance the New York Employment Services System: This initiative will enhance the New York Employment Services System, a unique partnership between the Office of Mental Health and the Department of Labor that exists to support the employment services system in its entirety, regardless of disability sub-types or State agency affiliation.  

Protect and Strengthen Workers’ Rights  

To ensure that our State’s economic growth and recovery lifts up all workers, Governor Hochul will:

  • Ban Agreements That Limit Workers’ Ability to Move and Work Freely: Governor Hochul will propose legislation to eliminate non-compete agreements for workers making below the median wage in New York State and to explicitly ban all “no-poach” agreements under State antitrust law. 
  • Increase Criminal Penalties for Employers Who Commit Wage Theft: Governor Hochul will propose legislation to increase criminal penalties for employers who knowingly or intentionally commit wage theft violations to more closely align with penalties for other forms of theft — because wage theft is theft.
  • Modernize How Workers File Labor Law Claims to Be More Accessible to Today’s Workforce: The State Department of Labor will improve the process for workers to make complaints about unpaid wage, discrimination, failure to provide State-mandated leave, and other violations of the labor law.