CANANDAIGUA, N.Y., June 27, 2012 — A New York State grant targeted at Finger Lakes students will help them attain jobs in advanced manufacturing.
Through the Advanced Engineering Pathway Project, up to $8,500 can be awarded to students to offset the cost of tuition, fees and books for those who enroll in certain two-year programs at Finger Lakes Community College, Genesee Community College or Monroe Community College.
Bill Rotenberg is the advanced manufacturing career navigator for the Finger Lakes Workforce Investment Board. He’s spreading the word about the opportunity.
Rotenberg estimates at this time, about 40 graduating high school seniors and over a dozen adults are interested in the program.
By the time people are actually enrolled before the next school year, he hopes about 75 to 80 students will be enrolled total.
And in the fall of 2013, he hopes that number will be more than doubled.
Experts in the field worry that misconceptions about manufacturing are driving people away from what can be an economically stable career.
“It’s not just guys walking around grabbing parts,” said Rotenberg.
One plant that offers advanced manufacturing jobs is G.W. Lisk in Clifton Springs. Dave Phillips is the training manager there. “It seems like we are continually fighting an image problem,” he said. “Most people seem to have the misconception that manufacturing still looks like it did in the fifties, where there were long assembly lines with heavy equipment belching out smoke and oil,” he said.
Phillips said the working environment is quite the opposite.
“Today manufacturing facilities are well lit with climate control,” he said. “All the heavy lifting and noisy machines banging out parts have been replaced by computer-machines,” he said.
And Lynn Freid, the manager of business development and continuing education at FLCC, said people might not even be aware of the type of work that’s available.
“The jobs that are going away, going overseas, those are low-skill,” she said. The jobs that someone would be qualified for after going through this training would be what Freid referred to as “high skill.”
“Now you’re interacting with computers, you’re interacting with machines,” said Freid, some of which cost hundreds of thousands of dollars.
It’s partly because of the cost of those machines that a partnership between community colleges and potential employers is so beneficial.
“Schools are building courses that are directly tied to industry needs,” said Rotenberg.
Phillips said that it’s a mutually beneficial relationship.
“Most companies know what skills their workers need but don’t necessarily have the resources or personnel to deliver the training,” he said. On the other hand, “schools have the resources and skilled staff who can deliver training as well as the expertise to set up a successful program.”
“This is the role of the community college,” said Freid. She said rather than having to go through SUNY to develop the new programs, they can “work with industry” to respond quickly to industry needs.
And though FLCC’s partnership is with G.W. Lisk, “this problem is not just theirs alone,” she said. Students who enroll in FLCC’s program will be employable at a variety of locations.
Paid tuition and great job prospects sounds almost like too much of a good thing — and Rotenberg said parents often call him with skepticism.
But whether you’re a graduating high school student or someone looking to find work in a different career path, he said it’s an opportunity that can’t be beat.
And Phillips agreed.
“This is a great start into a career in manufacturing,” said Phillips. “These science and technology programs will prepare a young person to either go directly into the workforce as machinists or technicians, or serve as their prerequisite course work for further degrees like engineering,” he said.
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