Mayor announces workforce consortium

Karen Kwandrans

Niagara Falls and Niagara County Community College are consolidating employment opportunity efforts for citizens in a Workforce Development Consortium focused on advocating for Niagara Falls residents in consolidating employment opportunity efforts and assistance into one source.

Mayor Robert Restaino announced the effort Monday in cooperation with NCCC’s Assistant Vice President of Academic Affairs Karen Kwandrans who will serve as director.

Kwandrans comes to the consortium with more than 20 years of higher education experience, focusing on development of programs, curricula, and credentials to bridge workforce initiatives, obtaining business and industry input to identify regional economic development plans, professional development for area high school and adult education educators, marketing and recruitment, grant supervision and identification, and more.

The initial plans for the consortium bring together industry and other critical partners, including community groups, to develop a responsive mutually beneficial relationship. The consortium’s goal is to create a regional economic impact by developing an employee pipeline.

“We want to ensure that all residents of the city are aware of the training and employment opportunities available to them,” Kwandrans said. “Our efforts will begin in middle school with career awareness, then educational and training opportunities leading to good paying jobs.”

At the end of last month, Restaino held a Workforce Development “meet and greet” at city hall. This meeting brought together different members of the community focused in the areas of education, job training, job placement, job opportunity, and more, allowing them the opportunity to share what each program, group, or organization offers, where there are gaps in these efforts, and help needed.

“I’ve been engaging in conversations since the beginning of my term focused around the need for workforce development,” Restaino said. “These conversations with community members and leaders has shaped and directed our need to create this organization. Oftentimes the different groups, organizations, and development programs have operated in silos, separate from one another.

In addition to conversations Restaino has had with the community, workforce development was also identified by the Committee on Employment, under the Social Justice Commission, with the recommendation that utilizing existing resources to their fullest potential and creating awareness was vital to encourage and create workforce development throughout the Niagara Falls community.

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