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Looking Forward: The Future of NYC Jobs with ABNY

Updated: Jan 21, 2020

A huge thank you to An Association for a Better New York (ABNY) for a thought-provoking panel on the future of jobs in New York City. As an urban planner, I am constantly reflecting on solutions to our city's systemic #workforcedevelopment challenges. While NYC created a staggering 900k new jobs over the past 10 years, it should come as no surprise that this growth was disproportionate across boroughs, sectors, and education levels.

Panelists Purnima Kapur, Gail Mellow, Seth Pinsky, and Ritchie Torres explored pathways to creating middle-income jobs centered around alternatives to higher education, on-the-job training and human capital investments, and job growth strategies tailored to a hyper-local scale. I've shared some highlights from the conversation here - dig in!

Center for an Urban Future Director Jonathon Bowles opened the conversation by sharing some data around our current workforce landscape. The numbers on a citywide scale are telling the story of a thriving job market with one of the lowest unemployment rates in our history. They’re also revealing vast disparities in the types of jobs that are driving this growth: we’re seeing an increase in high-wage tech jobs paired with a sharp expansion of low-wage sectors like home health care, restaurants, bars, and employment services. Growth in some of New York City’s traditionally high wage sectors like hospitals, finance, legal services, and manufacturing has slowed. In fact, we lost a staggering 13,500 manufacturing jobs in the past ten years. New Yorkers without bachelor’s degrees often do not qualify for middle income jobs and the data shows that attainment varies greatly between boroughs: 60.7% of Manhattan’s population over 25 years old holds a BA while only 30.8% of Queens’ population holds the same accreditation. With this baseline data in hand, panelists explored:

  • What are we doing to create pipelines for middle income jobs?  

  • How are we connecting our economic development and workforce development efforts?

  • How can we address the geographic disparities between our boroughs and neighborhoods when it comes to access to high-quality jobs?

  • What role should employers play when designing and implementing workforce development strategies?

“You can’t be pro-affordability and anti-economic development (or density),” shared RXR Realty’s Executive Vice President Seth Pinsky. “The only way to fix this problem is more development,” pointing to the massive displacement in the Bay Area as a cautionary tale of what New York City could look like without increasing density or expanding our existing housing stock. He also challenged the audience to consider how we can make it less expensive to do business in New York City. Companies in the finance sector, for example, have moved many of their middle income jobs out of state and, in turn, away from qualified New Yorkers.

LaGuardia Community College President Gail Mellow asked fellow panelists to revisit how we define economic development and who currently drives it. “When we think about economic development, we don’t normally have enough people in the room,” pointing to missing representation from those who design workforce pipelines and the communities they design them for. She believes that investing in human capital through education as early as high school, vocational programs, apprenticeships, and specialized trainings - in lieu of brick and mortar economic development projects - will nurture our missing middle class workforce. Mellow advocates for working with employers to design curricula and initiating feedback loops with those employers around what is working and where there is room for improvement.

City Council Member for District 15 Ritchie Torres shared that residents in his district are experiencing notably higher unemployment rates than the citywide average. As a result, he advocates for workforce development strategies that are designed on a hyper-local scale. “Economic development without human capital will only take you so far,” he notes. In fact, “it will perpetuate disparities we already have.”

We look forward to continuing the conversation around the future of jobs and again, thank ABNY for convening this panel of cross-sector experts. Karp Strategies often explores, designs, and informs strategy around workforce development. You can find selected projects where we delivered community and workforce development strategies on our website, here.


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