Workforce Development Remains a Priority for Manufacturers

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Article Contributed by
Written by Todd J. Tranum,
President and CEO of the Chautauqua County Chamber of Commerce
& Executive Director of the Manufacturers Association of the Southern Tier

Employers in the region continue to struggle to find entry level and skilled workers. Many parts of the United States are a facing the same challenge. A Deloitte study concluded that about 3.4 million worker will be needed by 2016. A significant number of skilled worker retirements are driving the demand for workforce in the manufacturing sector. Significant effort has been put forth by various partners across the region to address the issue including the development of new programs and construction of facilities to house training programs. However, far too few people are entering these programs. In addition, too few potential workers are applying for entry level job openings. We need the help of the entire community to encourage our young people, displaced workers, underemployed, and anyone trying to get on their feet to seek careers in manufacturing. Today’s manufacturing is driven by technology and innovation, and presents great career opportunities. The average compensation in manufacturing right now is $78,000.

County Executive George Borrello, during our recent Manufacturing Month event at the Jamestown Community College Manufacturing Technology Institute, noted that manufacturing instruction programs remain under-utilized. JCC made significant investments in recent years in its MTI facilities on both the Jamestown and Olean campuses, and while they now offer state of the art manufacturing technology instruction programs featuring outstanding full time and adjunct faculty, these programs could be accepting additional students. Both first-time students and non-traditional adults seeking retraining can be served at JCC. The P-TECH program based in Dunkirk offers excellent education and technical training opportunities for students across the region starting in 9th grade. Yet, P-TECH has the capacity to take on more students. In cooperation with school districts across the region and community partners we must seek to fill these great programs with students.

The Manufacturers Association of the Southern Tier has been doing its part to help address the workforce issue. The Dream It Do It (DIDI) program, an initiative of MAST, continues to focus on providing local students with access to quality experiences in the STEM fields (science, technology, engineering and math). Through DIDI middle and high school clubs are being organized with a focus on manufacturing technology. DIDI has hosted countless tours of manufacturing facilities and hands on project work with students. MAST is now fostering an apprenticeship initiative to help employers internally develop a skilled workforce. In addition, MAST has launched a talent pipeline program to help manufacturers recruit individuals from technology schools across the region. The success of these efforts will be dependent on the buy in of manufacturers and strong alignment with our educational system.

A new champion in support of efforts to address the need for a skilled workforce is Dr. Daniel DeMarte. As the new President of Jamestown Community College he is making workforce training a core issue of his young tenure. He is quickly developing an understanding of the needs of local businesses, and he understands that JCC is poised to help fill that need. We stand alongside him in this effort and will continue to work in partnership with all local educational providers as they focus on developing the workforce of Chautauqua County’s future.

If you haven’t met Dr. DeMarte yet we hope that will change soon. A community reception for JCC’s new president will be held on Wednesday, November 7 from 4-5pm at the Robert H. Jackson Center. It will include an interview by Greg Peterson. This event is free and is hosted by the Chautauqua Region Community Foundation.