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Workforce development: “The need for innovation is staggering”

“The need for innovation is staggering, the need for impact is staggering.” —Eva Hasset, Executive Director of the International Institute of Buffalo

Last month, Voxy CEO Paul Gollash spoke on a panel at the Welcoming Economies Convening in Syracuse, NY, an event that brings together a network of trailblazers and industry leaders in the emerging field of immigrant economic development. The panel focused on workforce innovations and explored the challenges organizations face today to ensure that everyone is able to benefit from the economic development efforts happening across New York state and elsewhere.

Two key barriers to success in this area are funding and building collaborative partnerships that drive innovation. “Innovation has to be demand-driven,” said Melinda Mack, Executive Director of the New York Association of Training and Employment Professionals. José Ramón Fernández-Peña, Director of the Welcome Back Initiative, added that companies “don’t innovate out of the goodness of their hearts.”

That doesn’t mean we can’t still create powerful social impact, but we need to be able to make the case that changing current practices and embracing innovation can actually increase return on investment, no matter what the goal is.

So what can we do to increase access to training initiatives and make sure that immigrants and other underserved communities are job-ready at the time of hire?

Digital learning platforms like Voxy could be vital in this mission, particularly for non-English-speaking populations: “Especially when you’re talking about scarce resources, technology can play a huge part in delivering higher-quality outcomes at a fraction of the cost,” said Gollash. By leveraging technology, companies and public organizations can use technology to deliver much-needed educational resources at scale.

And in order to justify new workforce development initiatives and to reinforce the need for collaborative partnerships, organizations need to provide more and better data to prove that these initiatives actually work.

“We get most excited when we can use technology to increase access for underserved or at-need populations,” said Gollash. “Hamilton was an immigrant; from Google to Tesla to Intel, the new CEO of Uber, immigrants have built great companies. They also create small businesses, the backbone of our economy, and that is not a zero-sum game.”