Trades council to launch recruiting ad campaign on social media

(photo by Dan Bridge for Pexels)

The Rochester Building and Construction Trades Council (RBCTC) is hoping enhanced awareness of the opportunities available within various trades sectors will help ease the ongoing labor shortage.

Fueled by grants of $100,000 from both the County of Monroe Industrial Development Agency (COMIDA) and the city of Rochester, the trades council is launching a hiring campaign primarily on web-based social media platforms, with some broadcast media spots.

A 30-second spot tells viewer “Your future is in your hands” and encourages enrollment in one of 18 apprenticeship programs available through the RBCTC. The campaign is meant to educate and energize the local workforce, Grant Malone, RBCTC president said.

“Hey, college isn’t for everybody and we want to let young people know this is a great option,” Malone said. “We need a larger workforce and we want to give people a career.”

The campaign, which begins Monday, will target YouTube, TikTok and Hulu, platforms that appeal to the RBCTC’s target audience. But there also will be television spots that parents, grandparents or other relatives may see and pass along the word to family members that are in high school or in need of a career.

“If we can help someone make a decision, that’s what we want to do,” Malone said. “I’m a perfect example of someone who didn’t go to college and I’ve done pretty well for myself and my family.”

Created by Jay Advertising, the 30-second spot also will include one of nine testimonials from current members of the trades industry.

The city’s funding is contingent upon approval by City Council.

“We are excited to partner on this media campaign to make the city’s youth aware of the fantastic opportunities available in the trade and construction industries,” Rochester Mayor Malik Evans said in a news release. “With building and development projects happening all over the city and more in the pipeline, we want to see young men and women from all over Rochester benefit from our investment to build a city with a prosperous future.”

Said COMIDA board chair Ann Burr: “The COMIDA board invests in growth companies that expand our economy and this campaign is part of our investment in growing the workforce to fill these new job opportunities. This campaign will illustrate the enormous opportunities for life-changing careers in the skilled trades.”

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Applied Technology Center approved for MCC’s Brighton campus

An Applied Technology Center will be built on the Brighton campus of Monroe Community College (photo courtesy of Monroe County).

Construction of an Applied Technologies Center (ATC) on the Monroe Community College Brighton campus has been approved, meaning students will have enhanced opportunities to train for high-demand, skilled-trades jobs and integrate with other STEM programs.

The Monroe County Legislature on Tuesday night approved $35 million in funding for the building, which will replace what county officials say is an outdated building on West Henrietta Road. The new facility will connect ATC students with the college’s existing science, technology, engineering and mathematics programs.

“The four pillars of building Monroe County’s future are public safety, public health, economic/workforce development and infrastructure,” County Executive Adam Bello said in a news release. “The new ATC facility builds on our country’s ongoing efforts to train people for high-demand jobs such as automotive technician, precision tooling, heating, ventilating and air conditioning technician and solar panel technician.”

The new programs are intended to help fill the void in the trades industries, where a shortage of skilled workers continues to grow as the current workforce ages out and fewer workers enter the fields.

“Skilled trades workers are in short supply, our economy needs them and companies are willing to pay good money for them,” Bello said. “This new center will give students practical hands-0n training and help accelerate the availability of workers our economy needs to thrive.”

The legislature gave unanimous approval to the proposal and authorized the county to enter into a contract with the state Dormitory Authority to purchase fixtures and equipment. The State University of New York will reimburse the county for half of all project costs.

“Thanks to Monroe County’s investment in technological innovation, education and training, more Monroe Community College students will have opportunities to learn in simulated, real-world environments and earn industry-recognized credentials in high-demand career fields,” MCC president DeAnna R. Burt-Nanna said. “MCC is grateful for the Monroe County Legislature’s and Monroe County Executive Bello’s support of our shared focus on lifting up residents across all ZIP codes and bolstering
our local economy.”

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Skilled trades, middle skills in schools battle a pro-college bias

Students in the optics technology program at Monroe Community College often have job offers before they complete their degree or certificate.

Now some of the 120 optics companies in Rochester are also reaching into local high schools. The students either are just starting to learn skills for the optics field or their interest in the class indicates a willingness to learn more skills on the job.

“I have been contacted by an optics manufacturing plant about my students in the high school program and if any of them are interested in a job,” said Alexandra Virga, a chemistry and optics teacher in the West Irondequoit School District who teaches an introductory class in optics.

West Irondequoit is one of about 10 local schools offering beginning classes in optics with dual credit at Monroe Community College. Some students register to receive credit at MCC for the class they take at their high school while others just use it to fulfill a high school science requirement. But the dual credit arrangement can provide a leg up on a degree or certificate in a field that will lead directly to a job in high demand right now.

It’s a line of thought diametrically opposed to the advice most teenagers receive today to put all their eggs in the college-prep basket.

“For too long they’ve kind of glorified (it,) made it sound like the sole path to prosperity is college,” said Dan Maloney, president of the Rochester and Genesee Valley Labor Council. “That left us a glut of people in fields where they’re not needed with a ton of debt.”

(File photo) Classes like this one in auto mechanics at Monroe Community College seek to teach important middle skills jobs that will help graduates find employment.
(File photo) Classes like this one in auto mechanics at Monroe Community College seek to teach important middle skills jobs that will help graduates find employment.

Meanwhile, shop classes, where students of previous generations used to learn basics in carpentry or auto mechanics, are largely a thing of the past in comprehensive high schools these days. A generation or two of students have no older relatives in the trades. With no exposure to such skills, fewer people are seeking jobs in those fields.

To help combat that trend, the Builder’s Exchange of Rochester held a construction career event May 21 to introduce high school students and young adults to opportunities in the building trades.

“The industry has an immediate need for positions. We also have long-term needs,” said Aaron Hilger, president the Builder’s Exchange, a trade organization.

The needs are particularly high because of retiring baby boomers, Hilger said, but they’re also driven by the Great Recession’s slowdown in construction in the late aughts, which discouraged new people from entering the field.

“You had a whole group of people who normally would have entered the market who didn’t,” Hilger said. But the economy has since recovered. “We have a year or two of pretty good work now, we have space to bring in more people,” he said.

While schools like the Rochester City School District’s Edison Technical High School and county BOCES programs do offer construction classes, Hilger said educators have little incentive to expose students at mainstream high schools to the trades.

“High school administrators are really rated on how many people graduated and how many people went to college. Nobody rates (them on) how many people got a great job,” he said.

Classes that expose students to job skills give them a chance to consider a different path, but not necessarily one path at the expense of another.

“We see a lot of people who have gone to college, tried a couple of things and then decided they want to go into construction,” said Hilger, describing the path he took, too. “The average age of apprentice in the union sector is a lot closer to 30 now than 20.”

Likewise, students going into the work force right out of high school needn’t kiss college goodbye.

Maloney, who has had a career in automotive manufacturing and the union representing it, now has two associate’s degrees related to his work. Neither one came right after high school.

But college isn’t necessary to make a good living, several people interviewed for this article said. Some basic skills–innate or learned–are.

“If you’re a smart worker with really great ‘show up’ skills and good attitude, you’re fully employable,” Hilger said.

Tom Tallone, an optics and engineering teacher at Edison Tech, said students who are good problem solvers and not easily discouraged when a first effort fails are the ones drawn to optics studies and work.

Plenty of programs help youngsters get that first job and the training that comes with it. Maloney said local building unions–brick layers, pipe fitters, electrical workers and others–sponsor a program coaching high school students and even young adults who’ve already had a first or second job. The program helps them gain the skills they need to pass apprentice acceptance exams leading to better paying jobs.

Virga said, “There are so many opportunities for students to go into the field (of optics) right after high school and training so they can move up in job title and the salary that comes with it.

“Corning has been doing a very good job with their outreach program,” she noted. In the company’s technician pipeline program, “They will pay for your school at MCC. You work at the plant for one day a week while you’re in school and you get a salary. After your two years of school you are guaranteed a job at Corning.”

And Corning isn’t the only company doing that.

“Getting the job right out of high school with the company that is willing to pay for you to take a couple of courses at night is huge,” said Tallone.

Some students complete job training courses at the high school level and then continue on in additional training or study in that field in college. Tallone mentioned articulation agreements in architecture between Edison and Rochester Institute of Technology, and in optics between Edison and MCC and Alfred State College.

Other students go straight to work, but they still move up.

“Just because you start as laborers and carpenters doesn’t mean you stay there,” Hilger said. Many in the trades go on to own their own companies. And those companies need the specialists any other company needs, too, like accountants and human resource workers.

Both educators and industry advocates say high school students need to have more exposure to jobs that either don’t require a college degree, or that just require technical training available at community colleges.

“Our culture has glorified the business community over get your hands dirty and build something,” Maloney said, adding that this attitude denigrates “people who work with their hands rather than pushing that as a really good financial option for the future.”

People in the industry can help destigmatize their work by making themselves available to visit schools and talking about what they do.

“The more they come in and talk with the students, the more the student realizes what the job is like,” Tallone said. One-on-one exposure to people in the industry also gives students a chance to find out how workers in that industry lead their lives outside of work, too, so they can envision themselves leading a similar kind of life.

Hilger said industries need to tell their story better to students and their parents, asking them to envision where their career path might take them if it doesn’t start with a four year degree and the debt that may be associated with it.

Educators said industries also can help recruit more future workers for their companies by providing equipment for training students in high schools and offering internships or shadowing experiences at their workplaces.

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Scholarship program to pair students in skilled trades with Thruway Authority

Students enrolled in vocational or technical programs or accepted to a trade school will have an opportunity to apply for a new scholarship being offered by the state of New York and the New York State Thruway Authority.

State Lt. Gov. Kathy Hochul visited the Thruway Authority in Albany to announce a scholarship that will pair students with the Authority. (Photo courtesy of New York State)
State Lt. Gov. Kathy Hochul visited the Thruway Authority in Albany to announce a scholarship that will pair students with the Authority. (Photo courtesy of New York State)

The Thruway Authority Skilled Trades Scholarship Program is aimed at recruiting qualified students pursuing a career in the trades and increasing workplace diversity. The Thruway Authority will collaborate with state schools offering programs in various trades such as carpentry, electrical, HVAC and plumbing, and provide students the opportunity to jumpstart a career with the Thruway Authority.

Ten students will be selected in the pilot program this year to work in each of the Thruway Authority’s maintenance divisions statewide.

“The new Thruway Authority Skilled Trades Scholarship is a great workforce development tool, providing on-the-job training for specialized trades jobs,” Lt. Gov. Kathy Hochul said while visiting the Thruway Authority’s Albany Division Maintenance garage Monday to announce the program. “Students will work with mentors to receive their education and training, and when they complete the program have a career with the Thruway Authority, along with opportunities for advancement. We want to make sure all New Yorkers have the access and resources they need to be trained in the trades and fill these high-skilled jobs across New York State.”

The 10 students selected will be awarded $1,000 toward their education while joining the Thruway Authority workforce to apply their skills. As full-time employees, the participants will be eligible for the Thruway Authority’s tuition reimbursement program to further fund their education expenses.

“This pilot program is a unique opportunity to recruit a diverse workforce and jumpstart a student’s career,” Thruway Authority Executive Director Matthew Driscoll said. “We encourage qualified candidates to apply for this program and join the many men and women currently working in a skilled trade with the Thruway Authority.”

The deadline for students to apply is May 31.

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