Modified: December 12, 2018 9:47am

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The burgeoning healthcare field in Erie County is getting a boost from individuals who have received credentials, training or degrees through the Health Profession Opportunity Grants (“HPOG”) program, which 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. HPOG Buffalo partners with regional training providers and employers to assess the constantly evolving training needs of the healthcare industry in order to ensure that students are trained with the most current vocational skills and then matches students to available jobs upon completion of their training. 


Since 2010, over 1,300 individuals have completed HPOG Buffalo-sponsored training programs and 1,255 individuals have received credentials or degrees. 1,074 of these people became gainfully employed as a result, 89 % of them in healthcare-related positions, at an average yearly starting wage of $30,472. Nearly 100 healthcare organizations across the region have hired HPOG Buffalo graduates.


“The Health Profession Opportunity Grant program is providing low-income individuals with the skills they need to succeed and build a career in healthcare, thereby bringing these individuals out of poverty,” said Erie County Executive Mark C. Poloncarz. “The program is a true success, filling needed positions in the growing health care sector with qualified local candidates while at the same time garnering higher wages for these individuals and diminishing the need for assistance. Buffalo and Erie County have the fourth-highest poverty rate in the country, so this program addresses that issue through strong partnerships dedicated to improving people’s lives along with our local workforce.”


According to HPOG Buffalo data, nearly 25% of new jobs created in Erie County between 2014 and 2016 were in healthcare-related fields and carried a median hourly wage of $24.36. In 2017, healthcare employers posted openings for 1,520 jobs per month (on average); these were jobs created due to growth, turnover or retirement.  In 2017, healthcare employers also hired an average of 1,250 people per month for jobs that did not require a four-year degree.


“As a key component of the public workforce system in Buffalo and Erie County, the Health Profession Opportunity Grants Program has made a significant impact in the lives of Western New Yorkers as it assists employers in addressing the shortage of healthcare workers in the region,” said Heather Gresham, Executive Director of the Buffalo and Erie County Workforce Investment Board. “Since 2010, the program has helped over 1,000 low-income individuals enter the workforce and advance within careers that have family-sustaining wages. We look forward to the program’s continued success.”


HPOG training programs prepare students for a variety of healthcare-related careers such as Certified Nursing Assistant, Nursing, Licensed Practical Nurse, Pharmacy Technician, Medical Office Secretary, Medical Assistant, Physical Therapy Assistant, Home Health Aide, Direct Support professional, and Surgical Technologist. 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, HPOG Buffalo provides students with assistance with transportation, childcare and emergencies such as car repairs, insurance payments, housing, tutoring and obtaining a driver’s license. 


Matching students to jobs upon completion of HPOG Buffalo 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”). Since 2010, graduates of the HPOG program have generated $90.2 million in wages for themselves and have 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 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. Since its inception, HPOG Buffalo has operated with approximately $9.6 million in support from the Administration of Children and Families, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, helping to fill more than 1,000 career-oriented jobs in hospitals, long-term-care facilities, home healthcare settings and pharmacies.



 For more information:


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



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