IMG_9453By Brian Sampson, President of the Associated Builders and Contractors, Empire State Chapter The following blog has been republished with permission from the Ithaca Journal and was originally published on March 29, 2016. As we enter what is likely to be the final week of budget negotiations, there have been a lot of arguments both for and against Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s proposed $15-an-hour minimum wage. A lot of facts have already been pointed out, such as the hundreds of thousands of jobs that would be lost with this proposal, so I will not be redundant. Instead, I would like to facilitate dialogue on an aspect of this proposal that has been missing throughout the course of the debate. There is an old saying that I’m sure we’ve all heard at one point or another: “Give a man a fish, and he eats for a day. Teach a man to fish, and he eats for a lifetime.” Boosting the wage of low-income workers ties right into this. Instead of simply forcing a wage down the throats of small businesses, which will result in rising costs across the board, wage compression and so on, we need to be teaching people new skills and giving them marketable experience to attain careers with upward mobility, enabling them to climb the economic ladder. As an example, one major issue facing the construction industry is an increasingly aging workforce and the presence of a major skills gap resulting in a workforce shortage. Employees in our industry earn well over $15 an hour, and depending on the trade and demand, most earn many times this amount. The lack of a workforce has hurt contractors across the board. Here in New York and across the country, some contractors have been forced to actually turn away work because of the workforce shortage. With the recent announcement that New York will be investing approximately $100 billion dollars of much-needed improvements into our dilapidated infrastructure, along with increasing investments from the private sector and municipalities across New York, this problem is likely only to expand over the coming years. Why not commit to training programs to promote and foster careers in the trades along with other in demand fields with shortages, like advanced manufacturing? Efforts should focus not only on filling imminent shortages through existing programs, but also through promoting careers in high-demand fields to students. Also, while we’re talking about workforce, in 2014, New York passed legislation creating a career and technical education diploma. It was widely praised, yet the state Education Department still has not produced the curriculum for schools to be in place. Investing in our workforce is a solution that responds to the demands of the market, and this is where New York state should be focusing its effort to build a high quality of life. Arbitrarily raising the minimum wage might artificially lift salaries for a short period of time for those fortunate enough to keep their jobs, but with the increased costs and decreased buying power, this is by no means a permanent solution. Let’s work together to create a ready workforce in demand that will earn well over $15 an hour in careers with upward mobility.

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NCCER develops standardized construction and maintenance curricula and assessments with portable credentials. These credentials are tracked through NCCER’s National Registry which allows organizations and companies to track the qualifications of their craft professionals and/or check the qualifications of possible new hires. The National Registry also assists craft professionals by maintaining their records in a secure database.