Skip to Content

A Webinar Hosted by WGU’s Northeast Region Siena College Research Institute Webinar

Qualification Quagmire: Closing Upstate NY’s Workforce Training Gap

Siena College Logo

According to a new Siena College Research Institute (SCRI) survey, only 28% of CEOs across Upstate New York believe there is an ample supply of local workers that are appropriately trained for their employment needs. In the same poll, just 22% of business leaders said the local workforce has access to training for the relevant skills, in all positions, that their companies will need over the next five years.

Those numbers are troubling, as New York’s unemployment outpaces the national rate, and businesses are struggling with weakened revenue and growth heading into the post-pandemic recovery period. Clearly, there is an urgent need for training solutions that benefit job seekers and their current and future employers.

Watch WGU and SCRI discuss the crucial role of education in workforce preparation and retention. The event includes a keynote on the results of the 2021 Upstate New York Business Leader Survey, followed by a panel discussion on the needs of businesses in Upstate New York and emerging solutions, including curricular innovations and industry partnerships.

Other topics shared include insight on how the pandemic has accelerated demand for a more skilled workforce, CEOs’ outlook for the post-pandemic recovery period, and business-education collaboration as a key to organizational success and economic development.

The 14th Annual Upstate New York Business Leader Survey was conducted by Siena College Research Institute from January to March 2021. The survey was sponsored by the Business Council of New York State, Inc., with additional support provided by Western Governors University.

View the Webinar Recording Here:

Keynote and Panelists:

Don Levy, Director, Siena College Research Institute
Rebecca Watts Headshot Rebecca L. Watts, Regional Vice President, Western Governors University
Penny Hill Headshot Penny C. Hill, Dean of Economic Development and Workforce Initiatives, Hudson Valley Community College
Heather Briccetti Headshot Heather Briccetti, President and CEO, The Business Council of New York State
Casey Seiler Headshot Casey Seiler, Albany Times Union


KeynoteDr. Don Levy currently serves as the director of the Siena College Research Institute (SCRI). He began his tenure as director in August of 2007 and has been instrumental in focusing Siena’s polling not only on statewide and local politics but also on economic, social, and cultural issues important to all New Yorkers. Don founded and served for two years as the co-director of the Institute for Social and Community Research (ISCR) at West Virginia Wesleyan College, and prior to that as director of research at the Center for Population Research (CPR) at the University of Connecticut. He holds a Ph.D., in sociology from the University of Connecticut and a B.A. from Yale University.

Fourteen years ago, Don established the Upstate Business Leaders survey to measure CEO and business leader perception of the business climate for both their industry and New York State, as well as examine business leaders' relationships with the federal and state government and workforce expectations for the coming year. 

In addition to supervising SCRI’s political and economic polling, Don has conducted studies while at Siena on the implications of the recession, civic engagement, health, charitable giving, leisure time and and New Yorkers’ attitudes towards the real estate market. He has recently completed polling in partnership with major media partners including the New York Times, C-SPAN, Newsday, the Albany Times Union and the Buffalo News.

Panelist: Rebecca L. Watts, Ph.D., serves as regional vice president in the northeast for Western Governors University. In her role, she develops and strengthens relationships with partner organizations to expand student access to WGU’s nationally recognized postsecondary programs. She also leads the university’s engagement with recent graduates and alumni in the northeast to facilitate alumni networking and job placements.

Panelist: Penny Hill was recently appointed as Hudson Valley Community College’s Dean of Economic Development and Workforce Initiatives.  In that role she provides leadership for the College in developing industry partnerships, creating skills-based training initiatives and develops cutting edge programs industry needs for their current and future workforce.  Additionally, she coordinates the StartUP NY program at the College creating important community and business partnerships that link to degrees and training programs.   Recently, she developed and coordinated a training program known as the Manufacturing Technology Boot Camp to build a pipeline for entry-level workers qualified to start manufacturing careers.

Penny served as Associate Dean of TEC-SMART (Training and Education Center for Semiconductor Manufacturing and Renewable Technologies) in the College’s Extension Campus at the NYSERDA STEP Park in Malta for seven years. 

Prior to coming to HVCC, Penny acted as the Capital District Regional Director Valley from The Workforce Development Institute (WDI) of New York where she worked to advance training and education programs in a wide variety of areas, including manufacturing, renewable energy and energy efficiency.  

Penny is an alumnus of Hudson Valley Community College, has a Bachelor’s in Science in Biology from the University New York at Albany and holds a master of Business Administration from Russell Sage College.

Panelist: Heather C. Briccetti, Esq., is the president and CEO of The Business Council of New York State, Inc., advocating for New York’s business community. Ms. Briccetti joined The Business Council in 2007, as vice president of government affairs, overseeing the organization’s legislative and pro-growth agendas. She holds a Juris Doctor from Albany Law School.

Prior to The Business Council, Ms. Briccetti was a consultant and lobbyist for Powers and Company, working on issues including the Javits Center expansion and the new Yankee Stadium. She has also served as assistant counsel to the New York State Senate majority; legislative aide and counsel to the New York State Assembly majority committee on Racing and Wagering; and special counsel in the New York State Attorney General’s office.

Ms. Briccetti has served on numerous boards and committees, including: Climate Action Council Energy-Intensive and Trade-Exposed Industries Advisory Panel; New York Forward Reopening Advisory Board; New York State Thruway Authority; New York State Child Care Availability Task Force; Secure Choice Savings Program; CATS Industrial Advisory Board; Capitalize Albany, Corporation; New York State Council for Women and Girls; Berkeley College Board of Trustees; Council of State Chambers (COSC) Board of Directors; New York State Wage Board; American Chamber of Commerce Executives (ACCE), board of directors; Central Hudson Gas & Electric Corporation, board of directors; US Chamber of Commerce Public Affairs Committee; the State of New York Supreme Court, Appellate Division’s Third Judicial Department Committee on Character and Fitness; the Commercial Division Advisory Council for the Supreme Court of the State of New York; the New York State Tax Relief Commission; the New York State Tourism Advisory Council; and the Chairman's Committee for the Regional Economic Development Councils.

Moderator: Casey Seiler is the Times Union’s editor in chief. He previously served as managing editor, Capitol Bureau chief and entertainment editor. He co-hosted WMHT's weekly political roundup "New York Now" for a decade.

Before arriving in Albany in 2000, Seiler worked at the Burlington Free Press in Vermont and the Jackson Hole Guide in Wyoming. A graduate of Northwestern University, he is a Buffalo native who grew up in Louisville, Ky. He lives in Albany’s lovely Pine Hills.

Explore WGU programs.