Workforce Investment Board Talks Aligning Needs

Educators face a unique set of challenges when it comes to preparing students for the workforce.

The Workforce Investment Board hosted the fourth and final chapter in a series of connecting and aligning school systems with the needs of the workforce in Chautauqua County on Tuesday. The panel discussion featured comments from Jaime Venning, director of career and technical education for Erie 2 Chautauqua-Cattaraugus BOCES; Ben Spitzer, superintendent of Chautauqua Lake Central School; Stephen O’Brien, Dunkirk High School principal; and Tina Duliba, guidance counselor at Falconer Central School.

The panel spoke on the topic of how the education system prepares students for the workforce. Each speaker had several minutes to discuss their particular district’s efforts, as well as some of the struggles they face as educators.

“When I talk about some of our hurdles, number one, we don’t have traditional students enrolled at BOCES,” Venning said. “Our students are sent to us from one of the districts.”

Venning talked about how getting students into programs at BOCES is difficult, especially when scheduling conflicts arise. Additionally, he said there tends to be a negative stigma about BOCES classes, as well as a lack of understanding the value of those classes.

“Our goal is both career and college readiness,” Venning said.

Spitzer discussed some of the opportunities students have, especially as districts work together to educate.

“The fact of the matter is, educational opportunities vary from school district to school district,” Spitzer said.

O’Brien touched on budget issues districts face, with staff cuts and taxpayers footing an increasing bill each year.

The last to speak before the panel opened up for questions and discussion was Duliba, who spoke to encouraging students.

“The whole thing to educating kids is believing that they are great kids,” she said. “It’s how we all sell it, not just how people perceive it.”

The discussion marked the final in a series of quarterly discussions for the Workforce Investment Board. The first discussion focused on developing the workforce Chautauqua County needs. The second asked how to align school systems with the needs of the county. The third discussion questioned ways to bridge the gap between business needs and service and training opportunities currently available in the county.