Finger Lakes Workforce Development Center to host free open house Saturday 

Community members across the Finger Lakes region will have opportunities this weekend to walk through the Finger Lakes Workforce Development Center for a look at Industry 4.0 technologies that drive the future of work within high-demand career fields, such as information technology and advanced manufacturing. 

Finger Lakes Forward Center to host open house
One of the FWD Center simulation labs features robotics equipment that prepares learners to begin careers in growing fields. (photo credit: FWD Center)

An open house for the center will be held from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. this Saturday. The event is open to all community members, from high school and college students to working parents, military veterans and individuals who are unemployed or underemployed. 

The open house features self-guided tours and equipment demonstrations.

Community members can learn about career exploration and counseling services, job-placement assistance, short-term training programs for technology-oriented careers, work-based learning opportunities and tuition assistance options available.  

Some of the features of the FWD Center, located within Monroe Community College’s Downtown Campus on 321 State St., include: 

  • A Smart Factory that simulates a production system in the advanced manufacturing workplace;
  • A 25,000-square-foot, flame-resistant lab display that supports skilled trades training;
  • Simulation labs that allow for real-world scenarios involving robotics, mechatronics, augmented reality/virtual reality and automation, and
  • New courses and programs, including in networking and data analytics, robotics, and advanced manufacturing. 

Individuals interested in attending the FWD Center open house can register online at 

[email protected] / (585) 653-4021 

RochesterWorks initiative aims to reduce gun violence through workforce development

RochesterWorks! has launched a $2.25 million gun violence prevention initiative that is designed to provide job opportunities for hundreds of Rochester young adults.

The region’s largest nonprofit provider of workforce and career services is looking for community organizations to help implement the program. The initiative is funded by the state Department of Labor and is part of a multi-phased state strategy to use workforce development programs to reduce gun violence.

“Providing pathways to job opportunities is one of the best resources we have in the fight against the recent uptick in gun violence. We are grateful for this opportunity provided by the state to make a difference through effective workforce development strategies,” said RochesterWorks Executive Director Dave Seeley in a statement. “This program will only be successful if we are able to garner widespread community support to engage our youth and provide the support services necessary to keep them in these effective workforce programs, with the end goal being a permanent job. We are excited to solicit the support of the many good forces trying to bring about positive change in Rochester.”

The Gun Violence Prevention (GVP) program will serve unemployed, underemployed and out-of-school youths aged 18 to 24. Three-quarters of the participants will reside in one of nine priority Zip codes identified by the Department of Labor.

“I am proud to advocate for these resources at the state level which will support our young people early in their career journeys. RochesterWorks! is focused on creating employment resources for young people at a time when our community needs it most,” said state Sen. Jeremy Cooney, a Rochester native and representative for the state’s 56th District. “It is my hope that organizations throughout Rochester will seek these funds and do the work on behalf of the youth of our city. As we recover from the pandemic, access to training and educational opportunities is essential so that the future leaders of Rochester have the skills needed to compete in new industries and help our region grow.”

Current Youth Navigator programs implementing youth employment services on behalf of RochesterWorks under the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) will be provided resources to enhance their outreach and services. The GVP program also will invite nonprofit community- or faith-based organizations and units of local government to apply to provide outreach and recruitment services, workforce preparation services or both. An informational session will be held for potential partners on Oct. 7th at the Gantt Community Center. Interested organizations can register at

“It’s critical that we help connect at-risk youth with employment opportunities so we can steer them toward a life of prosperity and positive choices,” said Monroe County Executive Adam Bello. “I am grateful to Dave Seeley and his team at RochesterWorks! for implementing this initiative and give special thanks to New York state for funding this vital program.”

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GiGi’s Playhouse, Pride Plumbing partner on job readiness training

GiGi’s Playhouse Rochester has partnered with Pride Plumbing to provide an innovative program that provides professional work experience to teens and adults with Down syndrome.

Ready. Set. Work is a free program that will be held every Monday beginning Sept. 20 and running through Dec. 6 at GiGi’s Playhouse on North Goodman Street. Ready. Set. Work helps engage GiGi’s young adults who are 16 years old or older by providing them with hands-on experience that marketing professionals are responsible for, while also demonstrating their capabilities to be productive members of the workplace, particularly when provided with the proper training support, encouragement and opportunity.

“Our pilot program was very successful in engaging young adult participants and providing them with insights on the day-to-day tasks our marketing professionals complete,” said Jeff Donlon, GiGi’s board member and partner at Catapult Solutions Group.

The program is led by Meghan Cacchione, Pride Plumbing’s marketing and communications manager, and will focus on customer service skills including inbound and outbound phone calls, creating and scheduling appointments, requesting feedback and responding to positive and negative feedback.

GiGi’s Playhouse Rochester plans to develop more programming focused on career skills and professional development targeting young adults with Down syndrome regardless of their ability to break down barriers and bring awareness that people with Down syndrome can be valuable additions to the workforce.

Companies interested in partnering with GiGi’s in future work experience programs can contact Donna Rush at [email protected] Registration for the program can be found at

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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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Area organizations to receive workforce development grants

Some 75 businesses, schools and community-based organizations statewide have been awarded nearly $9.5 million as part of the state’s Workforce Development Initiative, including five in the Rochester and Finger Lakes Region.

“The economic impact of COVID-19 has completely upended the traditional workplace and we need a job training strategy that reflects the changing environment,” said state Lt. Gov. Kathy Hochul in a statement. “As chair of New York State’s Regional Economic Development Councils, I am proud that our Workforce Development Initiative will continue to keep our state ahead of the curve and create a more inclusive post-pandemic future where opportunity is accessible to all New Yorkers.”

Funding and incentives for the program are being provided by the state Department of Labor, Empire State Development and the state Energy Research and Development Authority. The program will support critical job training and employment opportunities in high-demand industries for nearly 5,000 New Yorkers statewide.

“As we move forward from the devastating impacts COVID-19 has had on New York’s labor force, we need to create opportunities for workers to succeed in this competitive job market and address the long-term job training needs of growing industries. For many, that means providing workers with access to the skills necessary to compete,” said Assemblyman Harry Bronson. “This funding is crucial for ensuring that New Yorkers emerge strong and more resilient than ever before as we rebuild the New York State economy.”

In the Finger Lakes region grants were awarded to Lifetime Assistance; Rochester Institute of Technology; Rochester Rehabilitation Center Inc.; Seneca Cayuga Yates Counties Chapter NYSARC Inc., dba Mozaic; and Turner Underground Installations.

New York’s Regional Economic Development Councils play a key role in recommending applications for funding, based on regional economic needs and opportunities.

“As New York continues to advance Gov. Cuomo’s bold green energy goals, strategic investment in workforce development and training is essential for attracting workers to the clean energy industry, and preparing new and existing clean energy employees for rewarding and well-paying jobs,” said NYSERDA Acting President and CEO Doreen Harris. “In recent years, New York’s clean energy employment grew at a rate close to three-times the national clean energy job growth and upskilling the existing workforce while creating a pipeline of new talent for future green job opportunities is key to New York’s success as we transition to a carbon neutral economy.”

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Area businesses, colleges receive workforce development funding

One dozen businesses statewide have been awarded more than $1.4 million in workforce development funds, including three in the Rochester metro area.

The funding is part of the state’s $175 million Workforce Development Initiative, and the grants will support professional training opportunities for more than 1,000 New Yorkers, teaching them skills that are in demand from employers.

The initiative was launch in May 2019, and since then more than $13 million has been awarded, providing training to more than 9,200 New Yorkers.

In this round of funding, Finger Lakes awardees include:
 Genesee Community College/Aludyne Corp., Batavia, electrical diagram training – $12,096
 Monroe Community College/University of Rochester Medical Center, Rochester, project management training – $8,690
 Monroe Community College/Generations Care, Rochester, leadership and accountability training – $1,418

“We are investing in our future by providing New Yorkers with the skills they need to succeed in the industries of tomorrow,” Gov. Andrew Cuomo said in a statement. “With these awards, we are continuing to strengthen and diversify our workforce while helping to ensure that New Yorkers will be sought-after employees in highly-competitive industries.”

The Schenectady-based Social Enterprise and Training Center was awarded $200,000 to train local residents to enter the culinary industry, while in Long Island, ShopRite Supermarkets was awarded more than $240,000 for leadership and career pathways programs. Snyder Corp., out of Buffalo, was awarded $235,959 for transportation services training.

“Investing in workforce development is essential to provide individuals with the skills they need for jobs in industries across the state,” said Lt. Gov. Kathy Hochul. “In order to keep up with the needs of the labor market, New York must lead the way to train workers to close the skills gap and create a pipeline of talent for employers.”

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Foodlink, others receive grants for workforce development

Foodlink Inc. will receive nearly $1 million to support its Career Fellowship, a one-of-a-kind culinary training program that creates pathways to prosperity for individuals with barriers to sustainable employment.

New York State Lt. Gov. Kathy Hochul was in town Monday to celebrate the funding and announce multiple grant award winners from Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s Workforce Development Initiative.

“Putting people first is central to our mission,” said Foodlink President and CEO Julia Tedesco. “The Foodlink Career Fellowship epitomizes our belief that our role as an organization extends well beyond food banking. We nourish thousands of people on a daily basis, but also create opportunities for individuals to be empowered with the skills they need for a healthier future. We’re forever grateful that the state has recognized the potential of this innovative program to spur economic development and transform lives in our communities.”

The fellowship was started in 2018 to train individuals for middle-skills careers in the regional food industry. Fellows are nominated into the program, and progress through a yearlong curriculum that includes both classroom and hands-on training within Foodlink’s state-of-the-art commercial kitchen, where they help prepare after-school and summer meals for Rochester students.

Eight members of the inaugural graduating class secured full-time employment in 2019, while seven current members of the Fellowship are more than halfway through the program.

The state’s Workforce Development Initiative is investing $175 million in job training projects. Awarded projects support strategic regional efforts that meet businesses’ short-term workforce needs, long-term industry needs, improve regional talent pipelines, enhance the flexibility and adaptability of local workforce entities and expand workplace learning opportunities.

Other grantees include Baxter, Genesee Construction Service, Graham Corp., Lifetime Assistance, Mary Cariola Children’s Center, McAlpin Industries, Optimax, Ortho Clinical Diagnostics, Prestolite and Wayne Finger Lakes BOCES.

“The number one issue I hear from employers across the state is that they can’t find workers with the skills they need for 21st-century jobs,” Hochul said. “That is why we are investing $3.1 million in job training programs spearheaded by nearly 70 upstate New York businesses, nonprofits, and community organizations that will benefit 3,600 New Yorkers as part of our historic $175 million Workforce Development Initiative.

“The nearly $1 million in funding for Foodlink will expand the organization’s culinary training program and create more opportunities for individuals in the food industry. The investment is part of our overall efforts to close the skills gap and prepare New Yorkers for jobs today and in the future,” she added.

Foodlink has guided one class through the program in each of the first two years since its launch, however, it has committed to hosting two classes of approximately 15 participants each in the year ahead thanks to the state’s investment. Foodlink’s staff will begin to recruit soon for the launch of the third class in July. A fourth class would begin six months later in January of 2021, officials noted.

Foodlink launched the program with help from Wegmans Food Markets Inc., and through private funding from the William G. McGowan Charitable Fund, ESL Charitable Foundation and the William and Sheila Konar Foundation, which also funded the launch of the second class in 2019. The program includes nine months of training at Foodlink and three months of an externship at a regional employer.

“Before arriving at Foodlink, I wasn’t reaching my true potential,” said Da’Quan Quick, who was a member of the Foodlink Career Fellowship’s inaugural graduating class. “The Fellowship made me believe in myself, and gave me the skills I needed to launch a career.”

As a registered apprenticeship, several local employers have partnered with Foodlink as potential landing spots for program graduates. Many of the 2019 graduates moved into full-time roles at Wegmans stores and restaurants in the Rochester area. The Kelaron Group, which includes restaurants such as Salena’s Mexican Restaurant and Nox, Rochester Institute of Technology and the Del Monte Hotel Group, are collaborating with Foodlink, as well.

Foodlink was awarded funding through the WDI’s Pay for Success program, which focuses on training opportunities for underserved and underemployed populations.

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Area businesses, colleges to share $3.4 million in workforce development funds

More than five dozen businesses, community colleges and organizations will share $3.4 million in funding for workforce development this year as part of the state’s historic $175 million Workforce Development Initiative.

Funding is provided by the state Department of Labor, New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA) and the State University of New York. Since launching in May 2019, nearly $6.5 million has been awarded.

More than one-third of the 61 organizations awarded funds this year are in the Finger Lakes region, including:

  • Berry Global
  • Bonduelle Americas
  • Clifton Springs Hospital and Clinic
  • Creative Food Ingredients
  • Cutco Corp.
  • Harbec
  • Lifetime Assistance
  • Markin Tubing
  • McAlpin Industries
  • Newark-Wayne Community Hospital
  • O-AT-KA Milk Products Cooperative
  • Optimax
  • Orolia
  • Ortho Clinical Diagnostics
  • Park Ridge Nursing Home
  • Pfisterer Lapp
  • Prestolite Electric
  • Rochester General Hospital
  • Rochester General Long Term Care
  • Spectracom
  • University of Rochester Medical Center
  • Unity Hospital

“These awards will help ensure that thousands of workers across the state are not only prepared for the jobs of today, but are ready to take on the jobs of tomorrow,” Gov. Andrew Cuomo said in a news release. “New York’s workforce must adapt to the rapidly changing, modern economy and the Workforce Development Initiative will give our workers the edge they need to stay competitive.”

The professional training projects are supported by SUNY community colleges across the state, including Adirondack, Broome, Corning, Dutchess, Fashion Institute of Technology, Genesee, Jamestown, Monroe, Nassau, North Country, Tompkins Cortland and Westchester. Projects funded through the state DOL include sites in the Finger Lakes, Long Island and New York City. Projects funded through NYSERDA are all located in New York City.

“Developing a strong workforce pipeline is a significant issue facing communities all across New York State,” said DOL Commissioner Roberta Reardon. “This initiative helps address that by ensuring that industry leaders are engaged with the education and training providers from early on in the process, resulting in the creation of meaningful training programs that will have a real impact on the problem.”

The state’s Workforce Development Initiative was announced last May and is designed to support strategic regional efforts that meet businesses’ short-term workforce needs, improve regional talent pipelines, enhance the flexibility and adaptability of local workforce entities, expand apprenticeships and address the long-term needs of growing industries.

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LadderzUP adds property maintenance curriculum

Monroe County’s workforce development initiative LadderzUP has launched a new property maintenance certification program that includes 11 participants in the inaugural class.

“There are good-paying jobs open right here, right now in growing industries like property maintenance and more,” Monroe County Executive Cheryl Dinolfo said in a statement. “We’ve made it our mission to use Monroe County’s unique LadderzUP workforce development program to help hundreds of residents earn the skills they need to succeed in new careers.”

The program will help connect more residents to local jobs, she said.

Participants of the program will receive classroom instruction at Monroe Community College Monday through Thursday and receive hands-on skills training at a job site on Fridays, officials said. Participants develop basic construction skills like HVAC, plumbing, electrical, use of power tools, flooring, masonry and more.

Four participants are sponsored by local employers to enhance their skills, while the seven others will complete the program and work with the county to obtain employment.

“MCC responds to the needs of the regional workforce with innovative solutions like the Property Maintenance Certification Program to help businesses, industries and individuals maintain a competitive edge,” MCC President Anne Kress said. “With Monroe County’s support through LadderzUP and our partnerships with employers, we’re opening doors of opportunity for individuals seeking careers in the skilled trades.”

LadderzUP creates custom, accelerated job-training skills development and certification programs that prepare individuals for immediate career opportunities. The first Certified Nurse Assistant program from LadderzUP finished in April.

“LadderzUP is a program that will provide a chance for local people that have an interest in working in the property maintenance field but don’t currently possess the needed skills or path to access it,” said Bruce Hunt, vice president of facilities management at the Cabot Group. “I have a passion for this type of training as I started in the Kodak apprentice program 39 years ago and it gave me a career path that has been challenging and rewarding. This is a way to give back and a way to help establish a strong maintenance workforce in Rochester.”

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Workforce development funding available statewide

A new, statewide workforce development initiative will invest $175 million to support strategic regional efforts that meet businesses’ short-term workforce needs, improve regional talent pipelines and enhance the flexibility of local workforce entities.

“We must ensure the workforce of today is not only prepared for the jobs we have now, but also ready for the jobs of tomorrow,” Gov. Andrew Cuomo said in a statement. “The Workforce Development Initiative is another significant step to ensure future growth in the state and help New Yorkers succeed in the 21st-century economy.”

Cuomo announced the concept a year ago as a way to strengthen workforce development in New York. The new initiative will require a consolidated funding application, or CFA, through each of the state’s 10 Regional Economic Development Councils.

Officials said awarding the funds through a competitive REDC process employs a “tested and successful model” that brings together colleges, industry and government leaders to plan the future of their regions.

“Technology achievements and new generations of consumers are rapidly changing the nature of our jobs,” said state Department of Labor Commissioner Roberta Reardon. “The governor is making sure that New York is ready to meet the challenges of these transitions head-on by focusing on new ideas for workforce development.”

The CFA opened to applicants on Wednesday and project plans and applications will be accepted on a continual basis. Awards will fall into three categories, including public-private partnerships to advance 21st-century skills; employer-driven skills; and workforce solutions.

“Providing a high quality education and preparing students for the competitive jobs of the future is at the core of SUNY and this initiative will continue to strengthen New York’s already premier workforce,” said Kristina Johnson, chancellor of the State University of New York.

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College workforce training programs abundant but still chasing need

MCC student Vincent Owens, left, assembles a tool holder for a drill used in a CNC milling machine with help from his instructor, Anthony McCollough, during a precision machining class.
MCC student Vincent Owens, left, assembles a tool holder for a drill used in a CNC milling machine with help from his instructor, Anthony McCollough, during a precision machining class.

Monroe Community College graduates 60 welding students a year, but that’s still not enough to fill the demand from local companies.

And that’s not a unique situation.

In the 2014-15 school year, 565 people graduated from a variety of advanced manufacturing programs at MCC and from other regional colleges, yet those graduates met just 63.1 percent of the demand for people with those skills. So says “Measuring Middle-Skill Occupational Gaps Within the Western New York Regional Economy,” a September 2017 report compiled by a team of MCC and state and regional economic development programs.

Statistics such as those are likely the reason Gov. Andrew Cuomo cited workforce development as one of the targets for an influx of money in his State of the State address last week.

Cuomo proposed:

  • A consolidated funding application for $175 million in workforce development funds;
  • A new state office of workforce development;
  • A state initiative to copy and scale up a workforce-needs data-mining program at MCC.

All this despite hundreds of classes, courses, certificates and degrees already offered at local community colleges designed to fast-track students to jobs.

One-fifth of MCC’s student body is enrolled in programs designed to give students the degree or certificate they need to start work immediately in fields such as dental hygiene and repair of automated manufacturing equipment, according to Todd M. Oldham, MCC’s vice president of economic development and innovative workforce services. And that’s not counting another 4,500 students in noncredit courses aimed at landing that first job, or adding a skill to gain a promotion or stay current.

Even so, there are fewer students being trained than jobs that await them, he said. Examples include the multidisciplinary area of mechatronics (a gap of 55.2 percent) and tooling and machining (a gap of 85 percent.)

Students and instructor work with a machine at Monroe Community College.
Students and instructor work with a machine at Monroe Community College.

“We need to keep a large supply of readily available men and women to fill the workforce needs at so many different levels,” said Bob Duffy, president and CEO of the Greater Rochester Chamber of Commerce. The governor’s new attention on the matter gives the state a chance to refocus its efforts, he said. “I think we have to do a better job aligning our workforce development efforts and ensure we’re really measuring what’s really effective.”

Duffy continued, “There are some great programs going on right now, but we have too many gaps. If we don’t fill those, companies will not expand here, companies will not come here.”

Research is needed to figure out the issues causing gaps between trained individuals and available jobs, Oldham said. Before beginning new training programs, the college wants to know about the quality of that career pathway — pay, stability of demand, how companies treat employees, and whether training classes can relate to other existing courses.

“Some areas of highest demand,” Oldham said, “also have poor pay.”

Indeed, 10 of the fastest-growing occupations in the state have an average income of just $27,000 a year, said Melinda Mack, executive director of the New York Association of Training and Employment Professionals. That’s hardly a sustainable wage for a family.

Many areas focused on by workforce development programs, however, offer entry level pay that’s above minimum wage and a trajectory leading to $25 or $30 an hour.

There’s a stigma for manufacturing jobs several experts agreed.

“What’s going to make the difference is if you understand you can make $60,000, $70,000, $80,000 a year with a two-year degree or less,” Mack said.

She and Duffy agreed that companies need to work with schools to educate families about the jobs available in today’s manufacturing plants.

“People hear manufacturing—they think it’s a job they don’t want their kids to do,” Duffy said. “Many times we see Rochester companies making products that serve a global market.  If they could see, they’d be thoroughly impressed.”

Increasingly, Oldham said, employers want trainees to know more than how to do a single job — build a car part or make a particular kind of widget. Mechatronics, for instance, focuses on electrical and mechanical principles behinds the automated devices used in a variety of industries. Repairing those advanced manufacturing devices is a hot skill to have now.

By and large, it is companies that come to colleges seeking this kind of training program for their existing employees, said Reid Smalley, executive director of workforce development at Genesee Community College’s Business and Employment Skills Training center. He praised MCC’s advanced manufacturing training programs and said he’d like to do more in Batavia. But while the state provides grants for 60 percent of a company’s training cost for such programs, individuals can be out of luck. The grants aren’t available for them.

A GCC mechatronics program that can provide ready-to-hire status in just 18 months costs nearly $14,000 in tuition. State and federal college loan and grant programs aren’t available for that training, Smalley said, because the programs aren’t credit-bearing.

“That’s a lot of money to pull out of your wallet,” he said. “If there was funding for that, we’d be filling our mechatronics classes.”

Less expensive is GCC’s one-month diesel technician certification program offered in Avon, Livingston County, costing $4,800.

“You walk out with a credential and they’ve placed all those graduates so far,” Smalley said. While that amount of tuition may still be out of reach for some unemployed workers, Smalley said, “you’ve got to make the personal investment, take out the loan, or ask mom or dad.”

Affording the tuition for new training is just one piece of the puzzle, though.

“The unemployed people often don’t have the foundational skills — the math or the English skills,” Smalley said. “Getting them up to speed often takes quite a while to do. That’s always been a challenge.”

An eight-hour soft skills course isn’t going to be enough to turn around a person in poverty who dropped out of school, spent time in prison and has no job experience, Duffy said. Unfortunately, many of Rochester’s youth who drop out of high school follow that path. Rochester schools aren’t doing the region any favors with its low graduation rate, Duffy said.

“We have to start teaching principles of work and work ethic at a very young age,” he said, and if those lessons aren’t learned at home, they are perfect subject matter for elementary and secondary schools. “Several CEOs don’t care about education requirements. They say ‘just send me someone who will come to work every day, come on time, be ready to work and get along with other people and we’ll hire them.’”

Mack said she hopes state funds can be directed in creative ways to make it easier for barriers to employment. It doesn’t help a person in a rural area, for example, to finish a job apprenticeship program if he or she doesn’t have a way to get to the job afterward. Funds should be made available for transportation, English classes or child care, she said.

Several years ago the dairy processing industry was expanding rapidly in the Batavia area and the BEST center created a number of short-term courses, from safe food handling practices to occupational safety classes to get workers trained to work in Greek yogurt plants.

“We ran that program. We couldn’t get people to enroll in it. We’re not quite sure why,” Smalley said. Perhaps some people were prescient; the much-heralded Quaker Mueller plant closed two-and-a-half years after opening. Now, however, Hood will be reopening the plant and plans to start recruiting food production staff in the second quarter of the year, Smalley said. They’ll be looking for GCC workforce training programs, too, he said.

“We have to take a step back and just look at how can we better align our workforce development efforts with the needs,” said Duffy, who also co-chairs the Finger Lakes Regional Economic Development Council. “Workforce development is a national issue. Communities around the country are struggling on this.”

He added, “We should be the leader on this.”

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Students participate in workforce development program

new-york-fed-logoA team of students from P-TECH Rochester earned the top spot in the 2017 Leading the Way: A Greater Rochester Workforce Development Video Campaign, sponsored by the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, the Rochester Area Community Foundation and RCTV Rochester’s Community Media Center.

The contest, which drew submissions from 74 students at three area Pathways in Technology Early College High Schools, was designed to teach students about the skills required to work in industries that are currently hiring.

“Research data has shown that there are an estimated 500 job openings in various technological fields each year in the Rochester area, and there are not enough skilled workers to fill them,” Rochester Mayor Lovely Warren said in a statement. “Closing the middle-skills gap is critical to ensuring that local industries get the workers they need to operate their businesses at full potential, and our citizens have access to stable, good-paying jobs.”

Leading the Way builds on the New York Fed and the broader Federal Reserve System’s efforts to help workers develop the skills necessary to adapt to today’s economy. Through this and other initiatives, the Fed has focused on reframing workforce development as an investment, encouraging partnerships and leveraging resources to improve economic mobility and job opportunities.

“The New York Fed is intently focused on supporting efforts to close the skills gap and help workers adapt to the ever-changing economy,” said Tony Davis, New York Fed director of community engagement. “With its first-rate educational institutions and innovative industries, the Rochester area is poised for success. Programs like Leading the Way play an important role in challenging young adults here to deeply understand the skills they need for available jobs.”

The P-TECH model is a six-year program covering grades 9-14 that focuses on career readiness and involves a partnership between at least one school district, college and employer—making up a “P-TECH school.” Students who complete the program receive a high school diploma and a college associate’s degree at no cost.

Submissions for the Leading the Way campaign were required to highlight one technical skill associated with a P-TECH career pathway, such as designing and implementing computer network systems, and two professional skills, such as personal traits or group experience, in a 30-second segment.

P-TECH Rochester was joined by Wayne Finger Lakes P-TECH and Western New York Tech Academy at an awards ceremony at Monroe Community College’s downtown campus Wednesday evening, where nine finalists, representing each of the schools, were announced. The first-place team’s video focused on cybersecurity and the prevention of hacking.

Among other prizes, the winning video will be shown in four local movie theaters.

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