New York Works can increase upward mobility

Jose Ortiz is the executive director of the NYC Employment and Training Coalition.
Jose Ortiz is the executive director of the NYC Employment and Training Coalition.
Jose Ortiz
Jose Ortiz is the executive director of the NYC Employment and Training Coalition.

New York Works can increase upward mobility

Work development investments can help more low-income people succeed if we use them well.
June 12, 2018

The New York City Economic Development Corporation, led by president and CEO James Patchett, should use Mayor Bill de Blasio’s New York Works jobs plan as an opportunity to make a significant investment in New York’s human capital as part of the effort to become the nation’s “fairest big city.”

The mayor proposed creating “100,000 new middle class jobs” under an investment plan in partnership with NYCEDC called New York Works. This plan identifies several business sectors that could catalyze future job growth in the city, including technology, advanced manufacturing, life sciences, entertainment and even freight. It calls for investing nearly $1.4 billion for the program which operates within the five boroughs.

Such investment has the potential to make the city more inclusive. However, any creation of new wealth and opportunity that isn’t clearly directed at low-income and marginalized communities will inevitably end up hurting those communities whether that outcome is intentional or not.

New York City is a booming city – and a booming city is an expensive city. Skilled people of all ages moving to New York threaten to drive out native New Yorkers who don’t have the benefit of college degrees or technical skills. Companies that invest their dollars in these new New Yorkers end up completely overlooking communities that need these investments the most. Not considering these factors into their plan would simply become yet another opportunity for the global elite to, through no fault of their own, displace striving, hard-working New Yorkers.

During a recent City Council budget hearing on economic development, Patchett acknowledged the need to give New York Works a strong focus on building employment skills. “The central and most critical element of our cybersecurity plan is developing a really meaty education and training program,” he said.

There are some reasons to believe that Patchett’s words could be followed by significant investments. Just last month, the New York Works project to revitalize the South Brooklyn Marine Terminal was expanded to include a local employment and training track funded by rent revenue from the new tenants at the facility.

“CyberNYC,” the first new RFP released under New York Works, emphasized an intent to “connect and develop a homegrown workforce with relevant, industry-informed cyber career skills.”  

NYCEDC also recently announced the launch of a $5 million initiative under New York Works called ApprenticeNYC, to create 450 new apprenticeships across three of the targeted growth sectors.

These early steps are promising and hold great potential for our city. However, a pipeline to 250 freight jobs in Brooklyn and 450 apprenticeships citywide are a long way from filling 100,000 good jobs.

Spending $5 million on the workforce is better than not spending anything at all, but as part of a plan that will end up costing one-and-a-half billion dollars, we need greater investment in the human capital portion. NYCEDC could provide all of our communities with bridge programs. They prepare those without basic skills for more advanced education or training.

We are at a pivotal point in helping to foster upward mobility and the Economic Development Corporation is particularly well positioned to take advantage of it.

Fostering new industries is always challenging. Doing so in the midst of an affordability crisis and with a focus on economic inclusion certainly doesn’t make this challenge any easier. However, if willing, NYCEDC without question has the tools at their disposal to invest directly into New York’s untapped talent pools, to make our economy an engine of upward mobility, and to bring us one important step closer to fulfilling de Blasio’s 2018 promise of becoming the nation’s “fairest big city” in the world.

Joey Ortiz
Joey Ortiz
is the executive director of the NYC Employment and Training Coalition.