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ROC With Your Hands event provides teens with hands-on job experience

Travis Fisher and a colleague from Bausch & Lomb speak with students at a recent ROC With Your Hands Event sponsored by the Rochester Technology and Manufacturing Association. (Photo by Andrea Deckert)

Travis Fisher knows that middle- and high-schoolers may not always know about local career opportunities available to them after their schooling is completed. So, he’s taking those opportunities to the source, most recently serving as an exhibitor at Roc With Your Hands.

“We try to expose students to what opportunities are out there,” he said.

Fisher, a manager of engineering products at Bausch + Lomb, was there to highlight the company’s electro-mechanical apprenticeship program. 

Students got a chance to try out some of the technology available at ROC With Your Hands. (Photo by Andrea Deckert)

The program includes 2,000 hours of hands-on training and 144 hours of classroom education. At the end of the program, the employee is given a pay grade performance and a promotion based on performance.

Alerting students to such job opportunities was the goal of the first ever ROC With Your Hands Career Exploration event last week at the Rochester Community Sports Complex.

The Rochester Technology and Manufacturing Association held the event in partnership with the city of Rochester, Monroe County, the Finger Lakes Youth Apprenticeship Program, Monroe Community College, RochesterWorks!, UNiCON Rochester and the Builders Exchange of Rochester.

It featured dozens of employers who highlighted various careers, offered hands-on demonstrations and provided information on their respective fields.

Hundreds of students in grades seven through 12 across Monroe County and the city of Rochester were exposed to careers in advanced manufacturing, skilled trades, automotive technology and heavy equipment. Students, teachers and chaperones were also provided free merchandise and lunch was also provided at no charge.

Kim Hartford, human resources manager for Avon-based DP Tool & Machine Inc., was attending the event to also raise awareness of local job opportunities, including ones at the machine shop.

Students ask questions of exhibitors at the ROC With Your Hands event.
Students ask questions of exhibitors at the ROC With Your Hands event. (Photo by Andrea Deckert)

DP Tool, which is celebrating its 50th anniversary, makes CNC-machined components for a variety of industries, including automotive and medical. The business has nearly 110 workers and has several job openings, including entry level machinists.

Hartford, who attends career days at area schools and hosts tours at the facility, said the company can provide good paying jobs to those who are coming out of high school. 

“We want to get the message out that even if you don’t go to college, you can still have a lucrative career,” she said.

The RTMA developed ROC With Your Hands through discussions with area businesses, local educators and community partners alongside the Finger Lakes Youth Apprenticeship Program.

Organizers said the career exploration event will be offered every year to schools throughout the city of Rochester and Monroe County.

Bob Coyne addresses attendees at the ROC With Your Hands event. (Photo by Andrea Deckert)

“ROC With Your Hands is a fun way to introduce our community’s students to careers that involve working with your hands,” said Bob Coyne, RTMA executive director.

He noted that careers in advanced manufacturing, skilled trades, automotive technology and heavy equipment mostly require paid on-the-job training and non-traditional educational opportunities while providing a positive pathway to success and economic independence.

“ROC With Your Hands allows students, teachers and chaperones to learn more about these high-demand fields,” Coyne said, adding that the youth are a critical component of moving the region forward. “If we don’t involve the kids, our community will never get better.”  

Collaborations were key in getting the inaugural event off the ground, he noted.

The City of Rochester hosted ROC With Your Hands through its Department of Recreation and Human Services at the Rochester Community Sports Complex.

Monroe Community College — which partners with the RTMA annually on the Finger Lakes Youth Apprenticeship Program — also supported ROC With Your Hands.

As did the Builders Exchange of Rochester and UNiCON Rochester, who host similar career exploration events which are supported by the RTMA.

Monroe County was another partner.

Ana Liss, Monroe County’s director of planning and development, spoke of the importance of events like Roc with Your Hands.

“For the community to grow we need to ensure that the talent pipeline is full and prepared for the jobs of the future,” she said. “Exposing youth to career paths early on can be very powerful.”

[email protected] / (585) 653-4021 

RTMA secures funding for local apprenticeships  

The Rochester Technology and Manufacturing Association recently secured more than $5,000 in related incentive funding for local registered apprentices through a grant with the Workforce Development Institute.  

The Rochester Technology and Manufacturing Association recently secured more than $5,000 in related incentive funding for local registered apprentices through a grant with the Workforce Development Institute.The funding assisted CNC machinists, tool makers, mold makers and other apprentices participating in Mastercam training classes at OptiPro Systems in Ontario, Wayne County. 

The funding – from the WDI’s Finger Lakes Regional Office – assisted a half dozen companies in the nine-county greater Rochester and Finger Lakes region that sent a dozen manufacturing professionals to OptiPro for classes. 

Reimbursements totaled $5,500 which will allow companies to further invest in their apprenticeship programs, the organization reported.  

“The RTMA is proud to partner with WDI and OptiPro to provide world-class related instruction at a significantly reduced cost for several local apprentices,” said Rich Turner, RTMA director of Workforce Development. “These funds were able to get apprentices valuable training that will assist them on-the-job and take them one-step closer to becoming a journey worker in their respective advanced manufacturing trade.”  

OptiPro is a state-approved related training and instruction provider for companies that participate in the New York State Apprenticeship Program and offers a wide range of classes to accommodate students of all skill levels. Go to for more information.  

[email protected] / (585) 653-4021 

Longtime manufacturing association director, NextCorps founder to retire

Rochester Technology and Manufacturing Association Executive Director Kevin Kelley will retire at the end of the month after 45 years in the Rochester business community.

Kevin Kelley
Kevin Kelley

Kelley has served as RTMA’s leader since 2003, but he also is known for his role as founder and executive director of NextCorps, formerly High Tech Rochester. Kelley served the Greater Rochester Chamber of Commerce Inc. for nearly three decades in roles that include senior vice president.

Throughout his career with the Rochester Chamber, Kelley was responsible for technology commercialization, economic development, government relations and association management with a focus on manufacturing and technology.

When he joined RTMA, the organization was known as the Rochester Tooling and Machining Association and was affiliated with the National Tooling and Machining Association, a relationship that went back some 60 years.

As the local organization was experiencing a troubling downturn, Kelley began a thorough benefit analysis of its relationship with NTMA, ultimately determining that the two organizations should cut ties. While the decision initially was met with skepticism from local members and RTMA’s board, Kelley presented a concrete plan that would lower members’ dues by 20 percent, reinvest in the local community and economy and significantly expand member benefits.

It took several years to complete, but in 2011, RTMA emerged as the Rochester Technology and Manufacturing Association and embarked on a rigorous plan to formalize its key pillars of manufacturing innovation, workforce development, political advocacy, strategic growth and access to markets.

To achieve those goals, RTMA launched a series of local initiatives to support the success and growth of its members. The organization subsidized trade shows, developed programs to help members access new markets, started a placement program and invested in advertising campaigns to promote careers in manufacturing.

Since 2003 Kelley has led the organization through four strategic planning cycles, restarted the apprenticeship program, secured nearly $3 million of revenue through grants and contracts, increased the organization’s assets by more than 1,000 percent and fostered critical partnerships with Monroe Community College and Rochester Institute of Technology.

Kelley also obtained his broker’s license so that he could develop a healthcare consortium that has enabled companies to save hundreds of thousands of dollars in healthcare costs.

Throughout his tenure with RTMA, Kelley was a fierce activist for the manufacturing sector, serving on regional and national boards to promote the industry. Kelley has worked directly with elected officials on both sides of the aisle in Albany and Washington, D.C., and started a Political Action Committee to support candidates who advocate for manufacturing.

Believing that manufacturing deserves recognition for its innovation, excellence and contributions to the community, Kelley worked closely with the Rochester Business Journal to launch the region’s premier event for manufacturing, the Technology and Manufacturing Awards, which has grown each year since 2017.

“Manufacturing had been written off in pursuit of technology and the service sector. During my years with the RTMA, we have been able to serve as an important resource to manufacturers by providing them with programs and services to enhance their competitiveness, leading to greater profitability,” Kelley said of his biggest achievement with the organization.

He noted that this year’s pandemic has underscored the need to keep manufacturing on our shores.

“During the past year, as the world scrambled to address the Coronavirus crisis, our local manufacturers responded swiftly and strategically by pivoting production to provide critical PPE supplies,” Kelley said. “These decisive moves not only kept the economic engines running in or community but also expedited the delivery of life-saving supplies across the country. We have been proud to provide support and resources to the manufacturing sector during these profound, historic times.

Bob Coyne
Bob Coyne

Kelley will be succeeded as executive director by Bob Coyne, who currently serves as director of workforce development for the RTMA. Prior to his current role, Coyne was president of the RTMA board and general manager for Acro Industries Inc. He will assume his new responsibilities on Jan. 1, 2021.

[email protected] / 585-653-4021
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