With a mission of “empowering the borough’s economic engine,” the College of Staten Island’s Office of Workforce Development and Innovation is a critical component of the College’s Office of Economic Development and plays an important role in the continuing education of New York City residents.
Addressing critical skill gaps in high growth industries and offering certificate programs and professional development courses in those fields, the division has rapidly expanded over the past few years, offering a range of credentials in both the healthcare and business sectors. And with the addition of new courses each semester, the program is continuing to grow.
“Our ultimate goal is to enhance the borough’s workforce and help propel Staten Island’s economy,” noted Lisa Spagnola, the College’s interim director of Workforce Development Programs whose main task is to identify the borough’s employment needs and develop the labor market to fill them.
“We conduct extensive research to identify the largest gaps in employment on Staten Island and then base our curriculum around those gaps,” Spagnola continued. “Our work is very intentional. Programs are developed in direct correlation to employer needs.”
Offering courses in healthcare, technology and a variety of business sectors, the program draws upon the expertise of faculty and local subject matter experts to deliver quality training programs to students who are either furthering their education or looking for a new career.
The College recognizes that for some students, a significant lapse of time may be passed since their last time in a classroom. “We understand that returning to school can be intimidating so we focus on making our classes as interactive and engaging as possible. That’s why classes are small and taught by subject matter experts. We pride ourselves on being experts in the principles of adult learning,” Spagnola said.
Designed to accommodate working professionals who want to reinvigorate their careers, the programs offer competitive pricing and flexible scheduling.
The College has also partnered with external collaborators to help meet the employer needs of Staten Island. “We have partnered with the Staten Island Performing Provider System (PPS) to build innovative and much needed training,” Spagnola said. “This past February, the PPS, 1199TEF, local employers and the College piloted the first Certified Nurse’s Aide registered apprenticeship program ever launched in New York State. It was a wonderful addition that we will be running again. Students earned their credentials and experience and all were hired by participating nursing homes upon entering the program. They were paid to ‘earn while they learn.’”
Workforce Development also offers two training programs to combat the borough’s current opioid epidemic, Credentialed Alcoholism and Substance Abuse Counsleor (CASAC) and Certified Recovery Peer Advocate (CRPA). Those who complete the CRPA course are trained to offer non-clinical support services to individuals living with substance use disorder.
“Due to the borough’s current drug epidemic, local hospitals and community based organizations are hiring people who have ‘lived experience’ with substance use disorder because they can connect better with those in need, providing more value in their recovery,” Spagnola said. “The training helps individuals with lived experience find employment while at the same time providing an important service to the community. Our coursework is an essential tool that participants need to enter the workforce but our wrap-around services, which support each individual and assist with job placement and dedicated student advisement, are what’s making this program so successful.”
And one of the most unique facets of CSI’s Workforce Program is the customized training programs it offers to small business owners. “This part of the College has a unique ability to work with individual employers to upscale their existing staff, offering necessary credentialing and even offering training programs at their office site,” Spagnola said.
Spagnola is currently working with Workforce1 Career Center, the Helena Rubinstein Foundation and other external agencies which offer scholarships for continuing education students at CUNY colleges who are seeking career advancements, to provide tuition assistance for CSI students.
“We recently offered a workshop to inform our students of the tuition assistance available to them and the application process involved,” Spagnola said. “There are a lot of opportunities out there and we want to make sure our residents are aware.”
Spagnola hopes to expand the program in the next few years, adding licensed nurse practitioner, Fullstack web developer and coding programs to the mix.“I’m encouraging employers to contact us for their large scale training needs,” Spagnola concluded. “We want to build on to this portfolio, adding classes that are both innovative and relevant to the business culture here on Staten Island.”
For more information about CSI’s Workforce Development and Innovation Program, contact Lisa Spagnola at 718-982-2078.