WATERTOWN — Workplace apprenticeships were discussed during Friday morning’s Jefferson Community College Jefferson-Lewis Industry Roundtable for Healthcare and Technology at the Renaissance Room of the Ramada Inn in Watertown.
Attendees from Samaritan Medical Center, the Fort Drum Regional Health Planning Organization, Lewis County Community Services, and Keyes Information Technology, among others, learned about the SUNY Apprenticeship Program, and how their companies could become involved and help to grow the workforce in the area.
“What we’re hearing from all our employers in our consortium is that we need skilled labor, that there is no workforce to step up and take the place of people who are aging out,” said Kathleen Morris, director of community services in the Workforce Development and Business Division at JCC. “Jefferson has heard that message and we know that we need to be more than a liberal arts academic institution, we also have a responsibility to this Northern New York community to be able to provide opportunities for people so that they can go right into the workforce.”
The SUNY Apprenticeship Program focuses on engaging small, medium, and large employers in New York to secure paid registered apprenticeships in high skilled, high demand, and competitive wage occupations in different sectors. Funding is provided by New York State & administered by the State University of New York (SUNY) in partnership with the New York State Department of Labor (NYSDOL).
The NYSDOL has committed up to $3.7 million to expand New York State Registered Apprenticeship by increasing employment opportunities for apprentices, with a focus on underrepresented populations.
Apprenticeship training produces skilled workers through a combination of structured on-the-job training with a skilled trainer and trade-specific classroom instruction. To meet the 21st century needs of businesses, New York state is expanding registered apprenticeship programs into emerging and expanding industries like Advanced Manufacturing, Information Technology, Agriculture, Hospitality and Healthcare.
There are currently 830 registered apprenticeship programs in New York state with more than 18,000 active apprentices.
Active apprenticeship trades include cabinetmaker, automobile mechanic, electrician, HVAC mechanic, locksmith, network engineer, scenic artist, and welder, among many others.
According to Makalah Betts, workforce programs specialist at the DOL, the department currently has $10,000 for each apprentice, and this can go toward wages, uniforms, equipment, or anything else employers need to develop apprentices in their workforce.
Employers can get up to $300,000 for 30 apprentices, but once employers hit that limit, they can apply again for more funding. Once employers are approved by the state for their apprenticeship programs, all they need to do is fill out the application for funding. Applicable forms and additional information can be found at https://www.labor.ny.gov/apprenticeship/appindex.shtm.
“We’re getting into a lot of trades that haven’t been apprenticeable before so its new territory for everyone, but it’s really exciting,” Ms. Betts said.
Because this apprenticeship programming is so new, Ms. Betts said the DOL is just trying to find a balance that works for the employer and the apprentice. It’s so new they haven’t actually had anyone graduate from the apprenticeship program yet.
Apprenticeships are composed of on-the-job training as well as related instruction, so an apprentice is a full-time employee at a company, but they are getting the related instruction through a local community college as well. In this case, the local college will be JCC.
Another benefit for apprentices, besides paying, full-time jobs, is once they are certified in their trade, it carries with them wherever they go, so even if they move to another state, they will still be a master of that trade in that state.
“Related instruction is really the key piece to the SUNY Apprenticeship Program’s involvement with apprenticeship — we want SUNY Jefferson to be the primary related instruction provider for your titles and your businesses,” said Mary Kohan, project director for Workforce Development and Community Education at SUNY Schenectady. “You want to partner with SUNY Jefferson to provide you that related instruction because there’s funding to do so.”