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The Westchester-Putnam Workforce Development Board (WPWDB) recently held its 2021 Annual Meeting addressing the current state of regional employment and discussing solutions for moving forward. “COVID-19 wreaked havoc on employers and on the workforce, especially for those who have experienced barriers to employment,” said WPWDB Executive Director, Thom Kleiner. “This crisis has created both opportunities and challenges for economic and workforce development and has facilitated new collaborations between all levels of government and between community-based organizations and partners.”

During the hour-long virtual meeting, the highlights from the year were showcased in a slideshow and video that included scenes from the past 12 months of staff helping job seekers through virtual orientations, workshops and job fairs, youth participating in online town halls with experts in various fields, testimonials from job seekers and from employers, and volunteers helping people file taxes through the Free Tax Prep VITA program.

The annual meeting was also the official “kick-off” of the Westchester-Putnam Pathways Pledge which was modeled after the NYS Pathways Pledge initiated by Governor Andrew Cuomo and the Reimagine NY Commission. The goal is to create a more inclusive workforce and expand career pathway opportunities for those traditionally underserved. For this collaboration to work, both public and private-sector employers and educational institutions must be onboard, taking steps towards reforming their talent recruitment, updating curriculum, implementing training, and changing promotion policies to foster more career path opportunities.

Register a business or nonprofit for the Pathways Pledge in Westchester or Putnam

Westchester County Executive George Latimer explained, “Now that we appear to be lifting our way out of the pandemic, we want to get back to normal but it’s not a snap of the fingers. 2020 illuminated many systemic issues in our counties, including the labor shortage in the trades, the untapped workforce of those with barriers to employment, diversity inequities, the skills gap and educational shortcomings. These issues permeate every institution at every level and the only way to achieve significant change is for each of us to commit to taking small and large actions within our respective organizations and communities. Under the Pathways Pledge, we’re asking for a commitment from 250 employers and 50 educators as part of a year-long campaign, including specific actions to help individuals who have struggled to find employment in the past. We want our partners in business, the public and private sectors, and not-for-profits to take action to identify jobs that might be available and then assist with expanding employee recruitment to reach candidates that might not otherwise be aware of the opportunities.”

Thom Kleiner introduced the business kick-off team to help spread the word and recruit employers and educators to take the Pathways Pledge. Marsha Gordon, CEO of Business Council of Westchester, Jason Chapin, Director, Workforce Development, Westchester County Association, and Jan Fisher, Executive Director, Nonprofit Westchester, all spoke and pledged their support. All three are WPWDB board members.

“The Business Council of Westchester is proud to represent Westchester's vibrant business community with over a thousand members ranging from every major corporation, 140 not-for-profits, entrepreneurs, and small businesses that make up the fabric of the Westchester economy. We have a long history of supporting workforce development and working with young people to enhance their skills and find jobs. We're especially excited to take this very important action step by encouraging our members to participate in this important Pathways Pledge campaign. And we pledge our support to reach the goal of 250 participating businesses,” stated Marsha Gordon, CEO of the Business Council of Westchester.

Jan Fisher, Executive Director of Nonprofit Westchester and a new board member of the WPWDB, pledged, “Since 2012, Nonprofit Westchester has been the unified single voice for the nonprofit sector. During the past year and a half, we offered hundreds of hours of technical assistance and more than 50 workshops to support the non-profit workforce. We recognize the importance of taking action together with our for-profit partners, and we pledge our support for this very important campaign and helping to reach the goal of 250 businesses.”

“During the height of the COVID pandemic, we recognized that employers were experiencing a severe workforce shortage and began coordinating stakeholders via virtual meetings to share information and solutions. These meetings resulted in the creation of the Tri-County Talent Consortium, made up of 25 colleges and career centers and other partners, to create a place for employers from Westchester, Putnam and Rockland counties to convene in the spirit of cooperation and transparency to discuss workforce issues and gain access to the students and job seekers within our collective spheres,” said Jason Chapin, Director of Workforce Development for Westchester County Association and organizer of the Tri-County Talent Consortium. “We are committed to supporting the Pathways Pledge as an action step towards positive change.”

“When we expand the workforce by being more inclusive and provide relevant training, we make our employers stronger and ultimately make our economy stronger at all levels,” said Mike Piazza, Putnam County DSS Commissioner. “We recognize that there are employers and educators of varying sizes; it can be quite a large commitment to write a job description for hiring one person for a small business owner who wears many hats and works long hours. It's all about our collective mindset to take the conversations and lessons learned and commit to action. The benefits will take time to realize; this is a long-term initiative that is not going to yield immediate results, but by all of us pledging to take some time and some form of action, we will move our counties in a direction that will not only be more inclusive, but economically strong.”

Details about the Pathway Pledge:

Register a business or nonprofit for the Pathways Pledge in Westchester or Putnam.

The Pathways Pledge
As stakeholders in the Westchester-Putnam Workforce Development Board Network, we pledge to each other to take action, to make a difference, to do our part to move the needle and be held accountable for our contributions:


  • Examine current job descriptions and update credential requirements.
  • Consider taking out 4-year degree minimum criteria for jobs that don't require it.
  • Write a training plan to expand existing workforce skill sets.
  • Create an employee recruitment plan and consider alternative employee recruitment methods, including one for those with disabilities.
  • Map out resources that can help an employee get back to work, e.g., childcare, transportation, etc.

Education Providers

  • Visit an employer’s worksite and ask about the specific skill sets needed in their sector.
  • Hold a career exploration job fair.
  • Provide students technical and trade educational information.
  • Introduce soft skills training in the curriculum.

Watch the slideshow from the annual meeting.
Watch testimonials from the annual meeting.

Watch the entire annual meeting

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