In last week’s column, I outlined the steps that Albany must take to rebuild New York’s manufacturing sector. This first piece of the puzzle focused on encouraging manufacturers to create new jobs and breaking down government and regulatory barriers that stop manufacturers from expanding operations and creating jobs in New York.
Quite frankly, listening to our private sector job creators and working with them to retain and expand their businesses must be “Job One” for New York state. My commitment to representing small businesses in the Finger Lakes and across New York state has once again been recognized by the National Federation of Independent Business (NFIB). They have honored me with their “Guardian of Small Business Award.” I really share this award with every single small business owner and all the employees that go to work every day, hang the open sign on the front door and keep the dream of entrepreneurship alive.
The second critical step towards growing our manufacturing sector begins by removing the stigma traditionally associated with manufacturing careers and providing New Yorkers with the tools they need to obtain the required education and vocational skills. Local business owners can, in turn, hire and promote this high-skilled, well-educated workforce to meet the increasing demand for the manufacturing jobs of today and tomorrow.
THE SECOND PIECE OF THE PUZZLE: ENCOURAGING OUR STUDENTS TO PURSUE CAREERS IN MANUFACTURING
In a featured article on the Workforce Management magazine website titled “Why Manufacturers Can't Find the Workforce They Need,” Manufacturers' Association of Central New York (MACNY) President Randy Wolken was quoted as saying that local manufacturers, “just can't find the technological individuals who can do production to welding, the advanced skill sets. For some companies it's a crisis, where they'll have 10 to 15 spots open despite high unemployment. We don't see a lot of understanding of what today's advanced manufacturing jobs are about, and administrators in schools mainly push [students] into colleges but don't tell them about these careers where you can start with a two-year technical degree or even a certificate right out of high school. They're not even aware of what a modern factory looks like.”
What comes to mind when you think of a career in manufacturing? Workers toiling on an outdated assembly line on a dark and dingy shop floor? The reality is radically different! Today’s manufacturers solve 21st Century problems and work with technology that demands a highly-skilled technical workforce. At a time when many of our college graduates are struggling to find employment, local manufacturers are looking for skilled workers to help them innovate, increase productivity and create products that make a difference and build better communities.
A partnership is needed between parents, students, high school counselors and the community to spread the word that manufacturing is a great career move for young men and women interested in working in the technology field. One step we can take is to highlight positive jobs available in the high-tech manufacturing industry; another is to take away the stigma associated with training for these careers.
Kevin J. Kelley, Executive Director of the Rochester Technology and Manufacturing Association (RTMA), was recently quoted as saying, “we have to create new pathways to high school diplomas, focused on career and technology education. Advanced manufacturing requires workers with more skills and knowledge, in order to be competitive.”
The following smart solutions that I’ve proposed would address the need to encourage New Yorkers to pursue careers in the lucrative, highly-skilled manufacturing industry:
- Change the name of Board of Cooperative Educational Services (BOCES) programs, instead referring to them as “Quest schools” to honor their new mission and goals (Assembly Bill A.4745);
- High-Tech Worker-NY (Assembly Bill A.10359) – Provide a Personal Income Tax (PIT) exemption of up to $50,000 per year for the first five years for new high-tech employees who completed a high-tech training program within the past 12 months (any college, vocational or certification program); and
- High Technology Manufacturing Workforce Development Act (Assembly Bill A.7056) – Establish a High-Tech Manufacturing Job Training Program for community colleges to re-train displaced workers and provide 50 percent tuition reimbursement for participating students.
Manufacturing is not just for our younger generation, but also a sensible career choice for anyone seeking new opportunities in today’s job market. Advanced schooling – including certificate programs, apprenticeships and Associate’s Degrees – is offered in our community colleges and is a great pathway to a fulfilling career in manufacturing. For a list of local schools offering courses visit http://nyfame.org/services_training.asp.
By working together to create a positive business climate for our manufacturers and encouraging New Yorkers to prepare for and enter the manufacturing field, we can ensure that manufacturing will be here to stay for a long time to come. I look forward to continuing the conversation between high-technology manufacturers, educational leaders and future generations of men and women dedicated to careers in manufacturing.
As always, constituents wishing to discuss this topic or any other state-related matter should contact my district office at (315) 781-2030 or e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org.