ERIE 21 - an initiative spearheaded by Le Moyne College partnering with state, city and county government, the Syracuse City School District (SCSD), private high-tech firms and banks - has received initial funding of $2 million from New York State. With funding in place, the College is launching an initiative that over the next decade could be transformational for the Central New York economy.
Through a variety of educational, training and private enterprise initiatives, the objective of ERIE 21 (which stands for Educating for Our Rising Innovation Economy in the 21st century) is to create infrastructure that will support individuals preparing for jobs in the innovation economy. Even before funding was received, the work of ERIE 21 had already started, as Le Moyne hosted two "coding villages" during the summers of 2018 and 2019 that introduced students from Syracuse middle schools to both the field of coding and the range of careers in which it is embedded.
"ERIE 21 will work to address two of the major challenges facing this region," said Le Moyne President Linda LeMura. "First, it will help develop a homegrown talent pool to make an impact on the critical shortage of software developers, analysts, engineers and cybersecurity experts needed for existing jobs and also to attract new businesses to Central New York. Second, it will begin to address the plague of poverty - particularly the inordinately high incidence among blacks and Latinos in the City of Syracuse - by introducing coding and computer skills to students at a young age at a time when it will engage them and spark an interest in possible careers."
“With the growth of our economy and technology in New York State, we need to make sure we have a skillfully trained workforce that can evolve with that expansion,” said New York State Department of Labor Commissioner Roberta Reardon. “I applaud Le Moyne College and all of our partners for embracing the Governor’s progressive agenda to set New York and its workforce apart as a leader in innovation and versatility. Together we will continue to grow our Central New York economy and our workforce.”
In drawing a parallel to the Erie Canal, which transformed the region's economy in the early 19th century, ERIE 21 would feature four virtual "locks" that will serve to assist individuals in their journey to become part of the innovation economy.
Lock 1 - Support the SCSD in programming and activities (including the summer coding villages) for rising 6th, 7th, and 8th grade students.
Lock 2 - Improve graduation rates by focusing on students in grades 9 to 12 by building upon the highly successful academic support programs now operated by Le Moyne in partnership the State of New York and the U.S. Department of Education, such as the Science and Technology Entry Program (STEP), Upward Bound and the Liberty Partnerships Program (LPP).
Lock 3 - Launch a new academic program at Le Moyne in Software Systems Science that would benefit area businesses looking for employees with strong competencies in computational reasoning and coding.
Lock 4 - Develop training and educational services needed by adult workers transitioning between jobs, veterans, those experiencing long-term unemployment, immigrants, and others seeking to either access the jobs of the innovation economy or move to more highly skilled jobs within the information/technology sector.
"ERIE 21 aligns perfectly with Syracuse Surge, the city's strategy for inclusive growth in the new economy," said Syracuse Mayor Ben Walsh. "Just as the Erie Canal once transformed Syracuse, ERIE 21 will create a pathway in the city to jobs in tech and other industries, and generate homegrown talent to feed the growing local demand for computational, software and engineering skills. I am grateful to be partnering with Le Moyne on both the ERIE 21 and Syracuse Surge initiatives."
“The Syracuse City School District is proud to be partnering with Le Moyne College on their ERIE 21 initiative and the transformative work taking place through the larger Syracuse Surge. Through partnerships like ERIE 21, we are preparing our students for success in the fields of Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Mathematics (STEAM),” said Jaime Alicea, Syracuse City Schools superintendent. “ERIE 21 not only challenges our students academically but by hosting them on campus for a week in the summer it introduces them to college at a young age and lets them know that they too can succeed at a place like Le Moyne College.”
As estimated by the Incentis Group, the total direct, indirect and induced economic impact of ERIE 21 upon Onondaga County from 2021 to 2030 would be nearly $1.8 billion in economic activity, roughly 2,000 jobs, and $645 million of labor income.
“We know from our member companies that there is a real shortage of talent possessing skilled in advanced technologies such as cybersecurity and coding,” said Randy Wolken, president of the Manufacturers Association of Central New York and co-chair of the Central New York Regional Economic Development Council. “Erie 21 is an innovative and collaborative initiative that will proactively address this challenge by better preparing our students for the future workforce, training adult workers, and transforming our region’s economy.”
“We are pleased to support Le Moyne College’s ERIE21 program," said Steve Gorczynski, administrative vice president of commercial banking at M&T Bank, which has given $50,000 to help fund ERIE 21. "This significant financial investment will not only benefit local students and faculty in Le Moyne College’s ERIE21 program, but also local employers, strengthening Syracuse’s economy.”