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Le Moyne College, partners want ERIE 21 initiative to support “innovation economy”

By Eric Reinhardt

Date:

Le Moyne College has launched the ERIE 21 initiative, which stands for “Educating for Our Rising Innovation Economy in the 21st century.” The program seeks to “create infrastructure that will support individuals preparing for jobs in the innovation economy.” (ERIC REINHARDT / CNYBJ)

SYRACUSE — Le Moyne College has launched the ERIE 21 initiative, which stands for “Educating for Our Rising Innovation Economy in the 21st century.”

The program seeks to “create infrastructure that will support individuals preparing for jobs in the innovation economy” and includes educational, training, and private-enterprise initiatives, according to Le Moyne.

The college is partnering with the state, City of Syracuse, and Onondaga County governments, the Syracuse City School District (SCSD), private high-tech firms, and banks in ERIE 21.

New York State has provided initial funding of $2 million for the program “that over the next decade could be transformational for the Central New York economy,” Le Moyne contends.

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,” Le Moyne President Linda LeMura said. “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.”

Erie Canal parallel

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 is supporting the SCSD in programming and activities (including the summer coding villages) for “rising” 6th, 7th, and 8th grade students.

Lock 2 involves improving graduation rates with a focus on students in grades 9 to 12 by “building upon the highly successful” academic-support programs that Le Moyne operates in partnership with 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 is launching 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 involves developing training and educational services that adult workers need in transitioning between jobs, along with 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,” Syracuse Mayor Ben Walsh said in a statement. “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.”

As estimated by the consulting firm 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. 

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