Specialty Food Manufacturing and Workforce Development

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New York City’s specialty food manufacturing sector is tasting success, but what’s the right recipe for mixing business growth with workforce development? Between 2009 and 2013, the city’s five boroughs added nearly 1300 new food and beverage manufacturers. Today, many of these startups are between 3 and 5 years old, an age when many such companies fail. Some New York City food and beverage manufacturers would like to hire more employees, but will job stability follow job creation?
In a recently released report, the Evergreen Business Exchange of North Brooklyn and the Pratt Center for Community Development address these challenges and recommend solutions. As the report notes, of 2100 NYC food manufacturers that opened and then closed between 1996 and 2003, 37% operated for 3 to 5 years before going out of business. That percentage stands in sharp contrast to the number of survey respondents (89%) who say they plan to hire more workers. Employers want to scale up, but they’ll need to stay open.
For both employers and employees, the strategy the report recommends is two-fold. First, public and private stakeholders need to promote a diverse workforce by forging relationships between workforce development and food and beverage manufacturing. Second, New York City’s food and beverage manufacturers need policies and programs that will help them to scale-up while providing employment opportunities to a more diverse cross-section of the Big Apple
As the report notes, “73% of the New York City food and beverage manufacturing workforce is comprised of people of color, compared to only 40% of the workforce of surveyed firms.” Many employers in the specialty food manufacturing sector need employees who have basic English literacy skills, and workforce development programs that include English as a Second Language (ESL) classes can help to connect more non-English speaking New Yorkers to employment opportunities.
New York City’s specialty food manufacturing sector is strong and growing, but economic expansion depends in part upon a skilled workforce. What are some other ways to connect business growth to workforce development in this manufacturing sector?
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Image Credit: © Giuseppe Porzani/Dollar Photo Club


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