This past August, when we officially opened the Gene F. Haas Center for Advanced Manufacturing Skills (CAMS) at Hudson Valley Community College, Troy, N.Y., there were smiling faces all around—industry donors, federal and state representatives, and, most of all, faculty and students who were poised to begin working and learning in a state-of-the-art facility.
But moving from idea to completion for the college’s new $14.5 million training facility was a seven-year journey that started with a simple idea. To attract the number of students we needed to fill the growing manufacturing base in our region, we needed a newer and bigger facility—one that we could use for not only training new students in advanced manufacturing and CAD/CAM, but also for expanding our educational efforts into areas like operations management, quality assurance, procurement and marketing.
The new facility is state-of-the-art when it comes to machinery, classrooms and capabilities. More importantly, its size will allow the college to double enrollment in our Advanced Manufacturing Technology program from 144 to 288 students, helping to meet an urgent regional demand for skilled labor. The associate in applied science (AOS) degree prepares graduates for careers as CNC machinists/programmers and industrial maintenance technicians.
We also wanted to make CAMS a true hub for regional manufacturing, a place for corporate demonstration purposes, shared training activities, meetings and events that can connect the college and its students to workforce partners.
Regional Partners are Key
Although this project was underway when I began my presidency, the faculty and administration of our college worked tirelessly over half a dozen years to build relationships that led to both private and public funding for the project. They convinced people outside the industry that there was a real need for growing the number of skilled advanced manufacturing tradespeople in New York. People from inside the industry, like our campaign co-chairs David W. Davis of Simmons Machine Tool Corp. and Marty McGill of Allendale Machinery, already knew the impact this new facility would have. They were there at the start, encouraging us to make it happen.
Despite an initial $1 million investment from the Gene F. Haas Foundation, there were times when it appeared we would fall short and never reach our funding goals. Persistence and the very real need we were able to demonstrate saved the day, and we’re excited that others shared our vision that this new facility could be a bellwether for manufacturing growth in our region. The active financial support and successful lobbying of our regional manufacturing community is what helped this program become a reality.
Those regional manufacturers had a lot to gain from the creation of CAMS. They face the same problem here in upstate New York as in many other regions of the country—large, medium and small manufacturers struggle to find qualified skilled workers to staff their facilities. On a weekly basis, our faculty members get calls from company owners across the Northeast asking if they have any graduates to fill vacancies.
One of the ways we’ve attempted to meet this demand is to empower employers to find their own prospective employees and help pay for the education they need to get worker skills up to the necessary level. It’s worked in the past for some of our larger partners, such as GE and the U.S. Army’s Watervliet Arsenal, located right up the road from our campus. Now, we’re reaching out to manufacturers outside of our immediate area with the same idea.
Our goal is to help employers around the Northeast lay out a long-term plan for recruiting and retaining employees, so we are looking west to Syracuse and Rochester, down into the lower Hudson Valley, and even into the adjoining states of Vermont and Massachusetts to find new partner companies and new students.
Location and Connections
Hiring and training people who live in the same community as your company increases the chances that you’ll be able to keep that employee long term. We encourage employers to connect with high schools, veteran’s organizations, manufacturing supply vendors and economic development agencies in their communities to find candidates.
Our message is simple: find the prospective employee in your area who seems like they have the foundation and the brainpower to do the job you want them for. When you find the right person, send them to us here at Hudson Valley Community College, help out with tuition and other associated costs, and soon you’ll have a skilled employee who has been trained to do the specific job you’ve hired them for. For companies, this is a short-term investment that results in long-term payoff.
At Hudson Valley Community College, we see massive potential for the new Center for Advanced Manufacturing Skills. CAMS has proven that an idea that comes along at the right time can be an economic engine, and we look forward to helping push manufacturing forward by supplying a new generation of skilled tradespeople.
To learn more about CAMS and partnership opportunities, contact Professor Dave Larkin, (518) 629-7381; firstname.lastname@example.org.