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County Executives George Latimer of Westchester and Kevin Byrne of Putnam hosted the Westchester-Putnam Workforce Development Board’s (WPWDB) 2023 Hybrid Annual Meeting on June 22, 2023. The program featured keynote speakers Dana PolitisAssociate Commissioner, Workforce Development, NYS Dept. of Labor and Matt BerndtDirector of Job Search Academy, Indeed. 

“Workforce development is entering a new phase. Things are happening with technology that most of us can barely begin to grasp including the impact of AI. It is a far different landscape than 50 years ago and that means employees need to upgrade their skills and learn new technology at a more rapid pace than ever before. Fortunately, workforce innovations and the training County government and partners can provide, can help individuals fill the gap and be ready to expand their career opportunities,” stated Westchester County Executive George Latimer.

Putnam County Executive Kevin Byrne said: “I happen to know that people live in Putnam County and work in Westchester and vice versa, so we greatly value the coordination and the health of the regional partnership. We are excited that the NYS Dept. of Labor is leading the charge on integrating Virtual Reality into our career centers. It’s especially valuable for our youth to experience the day-to-day reality of many different kinds of jobs before committing to an expensive education or training.”

Dana Politis and her team demonstrated a new program that uses Virtual Reality (VR) technology for workforce training and career path exploration, as a service to both job seekers and employer customers. Career Center customers will be able to “try out” multiple jobs and/or trainings without leaving the career center, saving them precious time and money. Some of the areas where this new technology is being focused include manufacturing, skilled trades, warehouse and storage, hospitality and tourism, public safety and the automotive industry. The Department of Labor has acquired 235 headsets for this unique training opportunity which is completely customizable.

Matt Berndt presented the details of a groundbreaking partnership between Indeed’s Job Search Academy and the Westchester-Putnam Career Center Network that will expand training and workshop services for customers. This private/government partnership is the first collaboration of its kind between a workforce board and Indeed in the country. The free online workshops offer a chance for job seekers to learn how to search for a job, how to prepare an impactful resume, how to prepare for a job interview, how to evaluate opportunities, how to research compensation and how to manage your career after getting the job. Matt also addressed the potential for developing custom workshops for the under-utilized workforce who have barriers to employment.

“The innovative use of VR technology and private sector partnerships within our career centers will add new tools to the toolbox. They won’t replace what we are doing, but will give staff additional ways to serve our customers,” stated Thom Kleiner, WPWDB Executive Director. “These tools will help our customers save time and money exploring new career paths and getting the training they need.”