OLEAN — For Jamestown Community College students Trevor Harrington, Sean Boorum and Anthony James, skills learned in mechanical technology are expected to lead to good careers.
The three young men, as well as administrators, local manufacturers and elected officials were on hand Thursday at the MTI building at JCC’s Cattaraugus County Campus in Olean to kick off activities for National Manufacturing Month.
The event was coordinated locally by JCC and Evelyn Sabina, coordinator of Dream It Do It Western New York. The goal of Dream It Do It is to promote careers in advanced manufacturing as well as convey the importance of STEM education for secondary students in the region.
Another goal is to provide educators with an understanding of the technological needs of area manufacturers so they can share that information with students.
In his opening comments, JCC president Daniel DeMarte said the manufacturing sector is struggling to fill job openings on many fronts.
“Manufacturing in the region is diverse and includes sheet metal application, machine assembly, wood and furniture products, electronics and lots of other things,” DeMarte said. “At a time when the manufacturing sector is losing workers to retirement, production is increasing. The challenge of finding workers has intensified.”
He said JCC has applied for more than $4 million in federal and state grants to support area employers by focusing on talent attraction and retention. As part of the college’s effort to improve its responsiveness to employers, a full-time trainer/instructional designer, Tim Griffin, is expected to help fulfill the training needs of manufacturers specific to machining/ and computer numerical controls.
In his comments, State Assemblyman Joe Giglio agreed with DeMarte’s comments noting the area currently doesn’t have an adequate workforce to fill many positions in the regional manufacturing industry.
“I really believe we are on the verge of surging” in growth, Giglio said, adding he believes the area will be ready with a trained workforce when that happens.
“This part of the state and the country will be coming back stronger than ever,” he said. “And Covid-19 and anything else is not going to stop us.”
Holger Ekanger, JCC’s vice president of workforce readiness, said the college has established new fast-track program pathways in automation, controls, robotics and machining/CNC. In addition, the college has been awarded SUNY grants to support the growth of apprenticeship programs.
Local engineering services manufacturer Chris Napoleon lauded the collaboration between JCC and Dream It Do It, as well as CA-BOCES, for what they have done “together as a group” to promote education and training for the manufacturing sector. He also thanked the Times Herald for its ongoing coverage and promotion of the programs.
“We’re trying to develop a pipeline for the kids, the teachers, administration, parents and manufacturers,” Napoleon remarked. “We’re passionate about what we do.”
Others who spoke included Lee James, representing Congressman Tom Reed, Olean Mayor William Aiello and Jason Miller, director of the Cattaraugus/Allegany Workforce Development Board
A first-semester student at JCC, Trevor Harrington of the Yorkshire area, said Griffin, who is a mechanical technology instructor, has been “easy to work with and easy going.”
Another student in the program, Sean Boorum of Port Allegany, Pa., said he thinks the training “Is really cool — it’s an opportunity you don’t get normally.”
Student Anthony James of Allegany is currently in the workforce and wants to beef up his skills on the job.
“I’m hoping to take some stuff back (to the job) and incorporate it into the parts I have designed,” James explained.
For his part, Griffin said he has enjoyed working with the students to prepare them for their prospective careers.
“It’s great to get to work with these guys and see them develop skills and gain confidence,” Griffin said. “It’s very rewarding.”
On a final note, Sabina said video tours and STEM professional activities are now available online for area students and teachers. Online programs by Napoleon Engineering Services, SolEpoxy and Scott Rotary Seals can be found on the CA-BOCES Learning Resources website at resources.caboces.org. Future digital kits by other local manufacturers will be provided at a later date.