Tuesday, January 02, 2007

Drinking for Jobs at Dorsey's

Back in DC after a relaxing week at home in the 'Cuse.

First up, thoughts on the MDA's Come Home to Syracuse event held last Thursday evening at P.J. Dorsey's in Armory Square. The pitch of the event was to bring together former residents of Syracuse visiting for the holidays, with local employers, in a casual setting. The MDA was expecting representatives from around 30 local firms, including Upstate, Lockheed, Anaren Microwave, Clear Channel, O'Brien & Gere, CPS & more. Reps from the MDA, the Manufacturers' Association (MACNY) and the Chamber of Commerce were also on hand.

I planned on attending to do a little networking, but I ended up "volunteering" and working as a greeter at the front door. Let me say this - the place was PACKED. Between 5 and 8, I'd say at least 300 people stopped by for a drink and some chatting. It was a varied crowd, some dressed in jeans, others in business suits. While a good many were definitely locals, there were quite a few out-of-towners, the demographic the organizers were hoping to attract. Most of the crowd was young, 20s and 30s, and several appeared to be students from the Hill or the Heights. There was a large stack of resumes in the drop box at the end of the night, and I'm sure that at least a few of the networkers landed themselves an interview.

There were a couple disappointments. Reps from Upstate and OB&G failed to show up, leaving a lot of people frustrated. The room was also a little too small, making things slightly chaotic. And doing the event a little closer to a holiday (maybe the Friday after Thanksgiving?) could draw a bigger out of town crowd. But these are small potatoes.

A couple great stories. I talked with a guy who grew up in the 'Cuse, but moved to Atlanta for work, where he lived for six and a half years. He found the MDA's EssentialNYJobs site, found a job, and moved back home. He showed up at the event just to say "what's up" and share his story. Pretty cool. Another couple from Maryland was home for the holidays, and the Mrs. said she was determined to raise their family in CNY. She and her husband (who, it must be said, was slightly less enthusiastic)were networking for jobs to let them move back home, without taking a cut in their standard of living.

The MDA says there are, at any given time, 8,000 professional jobs listed in their online database. A couple of my high school friends who attended the event seemed a little skeptical of the MDA's definition of "professional", but there is no doubt that medical, biotech, engineering, accounting, and legal positions are available, and according to some employers, they can't hire fast enough. I think the problem is, however, that the college age demographic that Syracuse is trying to retain, is not educated or trained for the right jobs.

Most of my friends, like myself, have BAs and MAs in the liberal arts, while local employers need people with science, technical, and business training. High schools need to emphasize that with a couple years of technical training at OCC or elsewhere, young people can land good-paying jobs here at home. For those destined for 4 year institutions, business (finance and accounting), engineering (particularly environmental), hard sciences (biology and chemistry) should be the majors of choice. I'm all for a well-rounded liberal education, but the jobs in the 'Cuse for English and political science majors are few and far between. Our schools need to do a better job of conveying to high school students which fields of study are most likely to make a graduate employable.

The re-opening of Central Tech by the city school district is definitely a step in the right direction. We need more creative, long-term thinking like this to ensure that our citizens can maximize their educational opportunities, and our employers can draw on a population with the right skill set.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

A thoughtful review...thanks. And thanks for "volunteering."

You articulate well the underlying employment problem in CNY. We have plenty of jobs, but not always of the kind local folks feel qualified to fill. At the same time, we have too many unemployed and underemployed CNY'ers but few of the high paying blue collar jobs they expect.

So what's the answer? I'm skeptical of re-training initiatives...I've never seen one really work on a large scale. Frankly, the economics say focus on attraction and selective retention of Talent and avoid a huge investment in workforce development, etc. The human answer is not so easy. I think we need to strike some balance between the two.


10:55 PM  

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