JCC shows how Workforce Readiness program can provide career success to students. Heidi Strobl (right), an instructor at Jamestown Community College in Olean, demonstrates how to operate an industrial robot to JCC North County Center director Elizabeth Booth (from left), Nancy Miller of Intandem in Olean and Holger Ekanger, JCC’s vice president of the Workforce Relations department, during Monday’s open house.

OLEAN — Heidi Strobl remembers instructing students who had to ride a bus to her class at Jamestown Community College in Olean — and after completing the fast, intense Workforce Readiness program those same students visited JCC in cars purchased with money from new jobs in the manufacturing sector.

Strobl and other instructors and administrators with JCC’s Manufacturing Technology Institute at JCC’s Olean campus, provided tours and presentations Monday in honor of the Manufacturing Month showcase and open house.

Holger Ekanger, JCC vice president of the Workforce Readiness program, said the day started with an overview of the Workforce Readiness program with business leaders, employers and development agencies in the area. The event was the first of many to address workforce training needs in the area and “actively respond to the business community” regarding short-term and long-term shortages of talent.

“Basically, we want to make sure that with any training or technical training that we’re doing, 70% of that training is hands-on,” Ekanger explained. “It isn’t enough to sit there and read through a manual or a book — you need to touch, you need to do, you need to experience.”

Ekanger further explained that the Workforce Readiness program focuses on “fast, intensive programs” that provide students all of the skills and abilities to land a job in manufacturing.

Workforce Readiness programs, which are available in an open enrollment format, are taught eight hours a day, five days a week for varying lengths of time.

JCC Instructor Dan Brown added, “We like to give them practical skills they can use to get a job or enhance the job that they have to become better employees.”

He said some companies, and economic agencies, have paid for the Workforce Readiness training for students.

“(The student) might not be interested in a certificate or a degree, but what we are saying is, ‘You have to have a job and we’re going to give you the skill sets,’” Ekanger added. “When you come back to JCC, (then) you’ll want to get the certificate or degree” in the field of interest.

A representative of the workforce in the community was Nancy Miller, director of vocational services at Intandem, formerly the ReHabilitation Center.

“We do work with some people who have a good work history, but for various reasons they can no longer do the work that they currently do,” Miller shared. “They need a leg up, they need some training and they need a different direction, so I’m trying to get educated more on what their options are.”

Demonstrations were provided for systems operated by the programmable logic controller (PLC.) The PLC operated by Strobl demonstrated how a small robot can load parts for production. A PLC operated by JCC training partner Jim Kelly simulated how a large robot can weld two parts together.

“The PLC coordinates the whole system,” added instructor Dan Brown. “It determines what each component in the system needs to do in an orderly fashion. In simplest terms, it is the brains of the whole system.”

In a classroom containing a small robot operated by a PLC, Strobl told visitors she has taught a number of courses to students, but always stresses safety in manufacturing jobs.

“Whether they’re interacting with a small robot or a large robot, it’s safety first,” she commented.

Strobl said she has taught people “who may have interacted with no more than video systems and with proper training and safety and guidance, you can get them working and doing simple programs.”

Strobl said she has also taken the small robot system to employers in the area for small group training sessions.

On a related note, Strobl said the rewarding part of her job is the students who came to MTI without jobs, and after receiving training go out in the community and find good employment.

“I love that we make a huge difference in students’ lives,” she remarked. “We’ve had folks who took the bus to class and (after training) went and got a good job. After a few months they came back and said ‘I was able to buy my first car.’ The change that positive career education can bring is amazing.”

For more information on Workforce Readiness, visit www.sunyjcc.edu/workforcereadiness or call 376-7506.

(Contact reporter Kate Day Sager at kates_th@yahoo.com. Follow her on Twitter, @OTHKate)