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Work begins on new Finger Lakes Workforce Development Center at downtown MCC campus

Work begins on new Finger Lakes Workforce Development Center at downtown MCC campus

(left to right) Allen Williams, Adam Bello, Jim Malatras, DeAnna Burt-Nanna and Robert Duffy. (provided)
(left to right) Allen Williams, Adam Bello, Jim Malatras, DeAnna Burt-Nanna and Robert Duffy. (provided)

Monroe Community College President DeAnna Burt-Nanna was joined Thursday by State University of New York Chancellor Jim Malatras to announce the start of construction on the $11.4 million Finger Lakes Workforce Development (FWD) Center on MCC’s downtown campus.

The FWD Center will be operated with industry and partnerships with Genesee Community College, Finger Lakes Community College, BOCES, Rochester Institute of Technology and Manufacturing Association, Greater Rochester Enterprise Inc., the state Department of Labor, RochesterWorks! and Monroe County. The state-of-the-art facility will train at least 2,500 students in various in-demand careers in manufacturing and technology. The center is expected to open in early 2022.

Also at Thursday’s announcement were SUNY trustees Robert Duffy and Christy Fogal, Monroe County Executive Adam Bello, the regional state legislative delegation and local officials.

“Because of skills gaps, there are critical workforce shortages across our state and SUNY will help fill that growing need. Today’s start of construction of the Finger Lakes Workforce Development Center is a key example of our SUNY for All program — going into communities too often left behind; bringing multiple colleges together under one roof to leverage the individual SUNY campuses’ strength to provide students more opportunities; and connecting students who will be ready for work, with the Department of Labor and public industry partners ready to connect them to in-demand, well-paying jobs,” Malatras said in a statement. “Thanks to the investment from New York state, we can make this a reality and start to fill the 20,000 open jobs in the Finger Lakes region.

“We have to give the community a chance at economic opportunities, and not only provide high-quality education to our students, but set them up for success, which is exactly what will take place at this center. I thank President Burt-Nanna and her campus leadership team, trustees Duffy and Fogal, Monroe County Executive Bello, our state legislative delegation, and all our partners for their advocacy and support of this project,” Malatras added.

The FWD Center has been designed to focus on short-term and accelerated training programs that place individuals in high-demand jobs within advanced manufacturing, information technology, health care, skilled trades apprenticeship and professional services. It will serve as a home to critical training programs for all learners: credit and non-credit-based programs and customized training to meet the needs of an employer.

A recent survey conducted by the state Department of Labor found that 48 percent of New York employers ranked the lack of qualified applicants as their main barriers to hiring.

“As Industry 4.0 changes the way all of us live and do business, it’s critical that employers have access to a workforce that is able to use smart technologies in business environments. The Finger Lakes Workforce Development Center will be home to affordable, high-caliber education and training programs that will be accessible to diverse learners across the region, preparing them for in-demand tech-oriented careers that pay living wages and are less vulnerable to future displacement,” Burt-Nanna said. “With a 60-year track record of putting people back to work, Monroe Community College is excited to be part of a regional effort in developing the next generation of skilled technicians and moving the economy forward.”

The project is budgeted at $11.4 million, with $6 million coming from a SUNY2020 grant and $5.4 million coming from the Finger Lakes Forward Upstate Revitalization Initiative.

“Today’s announcement is a cause for celebration — SUNY is creating clear education-to-career pathways for our students and helping the economy move forward after all the hardships faced by businesses throughout New York State due to the pandemic,” Duffy said. “The Finger Lakes Workforce Development Center shows what can be accomplished when elected officials, the workforce and higher education all work together to support a common goal. Our students who take courses at the center will receive hands-on learning experiences that will prepare them to enter into a job feeling confident to succeed.”

Undeveloped sections on the fifth and sixth floors of the MCC downtown campus at 321 State St. will be renovated to accommodate the 50,000-square-foot FWD Center. MCC conducted 22 focus groups with more than 80 regional stakeholders and employers to determine the impact of new technologies on Finger Lakes businesses and the skills these employers most need in their workers.

“The Finger Lakes Workforce Development Center will be a great resource for our community as we begin to build back better from the COVID-19 pandemic. This innovative center will strengthen the regional workforce through training, educating and teaching the necessary skills for careers in technology and advanced manufacturing,” said state Assemblywoman Sarah Clark. “Thank you Chancellor Malatras, President Burt-Nanna and County Executive Bello for this investment in our region and our workforce.”

The FWD Center is strategically designed and will not be fully built out at launch in order to support a variety of programs and allow for quick modification of the space to meet the specific needs of regional employers. Flexible space will be created for labs related to robotics, mechatronics, augmented reality and virtual reality, smart factory/automation and skilled trades, as well as the Career and Education to Employment Services Center. The design will enable the FWD Center to adapt to changing needs in industry.

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