Manufacturing companies in central New York need trained employees

May 1, 2015

Manufacturing is far from dead in central New York.  But it can sometimes be a challenge for manufacturing companies to find qualified workers. A new pre-apprenticeship program has been designed to train more workers for these jobs.

Darco Manufacturing in Mattydale employs 36 people in the production machining business. They’ve hired eight people in the last eight months according to general manager Laura Miller, and only one had manufacturing experience.  

“We look for people with sparkle in their eyes, who have sort of kinetic energy, who like to solve problems, and as far as their past experience, that’s a little bit less important,” said Miller. “We like to hire for potential and teach the skills.”

But Miller says finding those people can be a challenge, because many job seekers don’t consider manufacturing as an employment option.    

Dominic Robinson of CenterState CEO  says there’s a perception that manufacturing is dead in central New York.

"Because manufacturing isn’t dominated by a handful employers anymore, who are highly visible. Rather demand is kind of located in smaller companies. That demand is hard to aggregate, so it’s been hard for people to find their way,” said Robinson. “I also think the narrative about opportunity in manufacturing hasn’t been prevalent in our education system and among our community partners.”

So Robinson hopes this Manufacturing Careers Partnership can rewrite that story. The collaborative is led by CenterState and funded by local foundations and local and state government.  It offers foundational skills for underemployed and unemployed central New Yorkers, who are then linked with entry level employment in local manufacturing industries. Miller says the time is now for this kind of initiative.  

"Because we’re in growth mode again, as we come out of this recession, jobs are opening up.”

And beyond that, demographics are working against people looking to hire. Manufacturers need entry level employees now, who will replace baby boomers who are getting ready to retire.  

Randy Wolken of the Manufacturers Association of Central New York says that has to be a message to local educational institutions.

“We need to get the word out that we need them and there are job opportunities, especially with the upcoming retirement of baby boomers. There’s going to be a huge opportunity in this sector, and if we don’t fill it, they’ll go someplace else,” said Wolken.

Recruitment for the pre-apprenticeship training program should start this summer, and it expects to train and find jobs for 40 to 60 people by the end of the year, with a goal of finding opportunities for 300 new manufacturing employees though 2017.  

If it works, Assemblyman Al Stirpe, who helped bring $1.2 million in state funds for the program, says it could be expanded to other parts of the state, noting these are the kinds of jobs politicians like to bring home.

“The pay is good, you get benefits -- not like a lot of other jobs that seem to be available,” said Stirpe. “You can build a life  around these jobs and raise a family."