Modified: October 29, 2021 11:51am

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The Buffalo & Erie County Workforce Investment Board (“BECWIB”) is strengthening the local healthcare field and helping individuals who want to pursue careers in healthcare through the newly-renamed Erie County Healthcare Careers (“ECHC”) program, formerly known as the Health Profession Opportunity Grants (“HPOG”) program. The successful program, which had been a federally-funded grant program prior to being discontinued in the last federal budget, is now supported with $1.6 million of county funding. The ECHC program, in alignment with Live Well Erie initiatives designed to promote workforce development, prepares Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (“TANF”) recipients and low-income individuals with the skills needed to gain employment and advance in a variety of health-related professions. 


“The Health Profession Opportunity Grant program functioned as a critical tool for low-income individuals to acquire the skills they need to succeed and build a career in healthcare, thereby bringing these individuals out of poverty. When the federal government decided to end funding for the HPOG program, we knew we had to step in to continue it and the Erie County Healthcare Careers program was born,” said Erie County Executive Mark C. Poloncarz. “This program changes lives, filling needed positions in the health care sector with qualified local candidates while at the same time garnering higher wages for these individuals and diminishing the need for assistance. This program directly addresses poverty through strong partnerships dedicated to improving people’s lives along with our local workforce.”


ECHC will take the HPOG program to another level with a focus on training for higher level jobs that bring with them more livable wages. Training for jobs in the $20/hr. or above range, such as LPN, RN, Surgical Technologist, Medical Lab Technician, Respiratory Therapist and Physical Therapy Assistant are in this category.


Training for these positions takes anywhere from seven weeks to two years, depending on the position the student is pursuing. During training and in the first month on the job, the ECHC program provides students with assistance with transportation, childcare and emergencies such as car repairs, insurance payments, housing, tutoring and obtaining a driver’s license.  Training partners for the various positions include D’Youville College, Erie 1 BOCES, Trocaire College, Villa Maria College, SUNY Buffalo, and SUNY Erie.



“The Erie County Healthcare Careers program will continue on a successful path thanks to our partners and the ability to identify needed positions and train individuals to fill them. This is increasingly important as more baby boomers retire and health care needs continue to grow,” said Geoffrey Szymanski, Executive Director of the Buffalo and Erie County Workforce Investment Board. “The program assists people who are looking for a career, it assists employers in addressing the shortage of healthcare workers in our region, and it lowers the need for public assistance. We will continue working with partners to build on this success.”


Matching students to jobs upon completion of training is a fundamental step in helping these individuals enter the labor market, build careers and income, and leave poverty behind. Of the students who successfully completed the HPOG Buffalo program between 2010 -2018 and gained employment, 90% were unemployed when they entered the program, 70% were heads of households and 55% had dependent children. 25% of this group also received TANF support while 55% were Medicaid eligible and 60% were enrolled in Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Programs (“SNAP”). During this same period graduates of the HPOG program generated $90.2 million in wages for themselves and paid $2.73 million in NYS income taxes, leading to a 45% reduction in TANF benefit costs. The return on this investment to Buffalo and Erie County is 11:1.


HPOG Buffalo, the precursor to the current program, was created in 2010 as a partnership between the Buffalo and Erie County Workforce Investment Board; the Erie County Department of Social Services; area healthcare employers; local schools; the NYS Department of Labor; and 1199 SEIU. From its inception HPOG Buffalo has operated with approximately $13.7 million in support from the Administration of Children and Families, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, helping to fill more than 1,400 career-oriented jobs in hospitals, long-term-care facilities, home healthcare settings and pharmacies.




For more information:



On the ECHC Program and the Buffalo and Erie County Workforce Investment Board, visit  


or call 716-431-5880


email at:




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