Erie County, New York, took a positive step Wednesday towards solving both the skilled tradesman shortage and lower income unemployment.
Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz signed the First Source Policy yesterday requiring county construction projects worth more than $250,000 and involving at three workers to complete the job to hire qualified local residents within the 16 zipcode areas in the Greater Buffalo, New York area.
The order is supported by both the Buffalo Building Trades Council and community outreach leaders. Council President Paul Brown said he glad the county did not restrict the order to just Buffalo and believes this policy will lead to career jobs for disadvantaged workers. "I am happy that this Order creates more 'on ramps' into the trades for diverse populations as well as for younger people, and is consistent with our mission to ensure decent wages, quality working conditions, and equal opportunity for all."
At the heart of the order is cooperation between the local trades council and the city to bridge the gap between training and hiring.
"The executive order is going to open an avenue for these kids to be able to be able to go on a job," Brown said. "In the Building Trades, we have a pre-apprentice program and we recruit straight from those zip codes. Now we can put them in direct entry into an apprentice program, so now if somebody were to need somebody - whether it's union or non-union - they can take them right from this pre-apprentice program and put them in their apprentice program."
The Reverent Mark Blue, head of the Buffalo NAACP, noted that the First Source hiring policy will lead to workers who are well trained and experienced enough for not just one job, but for many jobs.
According to the county's press release, 58% of the population in the Buffalo-Niagara market is currently employed or actively seeking work, leaving 42% out of the labor force. Some zipcodes in the target area have a poverty rate as high as 44.7%.
"This executive order is a game-changer for our workforce, and will provide pathways into in-demand industries that have not previously existed for underemployed and disadvantaged individuals," said Heather Gresham, Executive Director of the WIB. "These are jobs that pay a family-sustaining wage and provide the ability to change the lives of workers and residents here in Erie County."
The First Source Policy will go into effect starting October 1.