Bring Back Vocational Training

We’re all aware of the unfortunate manufacturing skills gap, which has developed in part as a result of the “college-for-everyone” mentality. The search for qualified and experienced employees has been a struggle in recent years as the workforce nears retirement age and fewer young adults are pursing vocational career paths. A major contributing factor to this issue has been the elimination of vocational training in high schools.

The United States education system has been slowly removing vocational training from high schools since the 1960s. High school curriculum is now much more focused on preparing students for college. However, even with this push for students to receive a higher education, the statistics aren’t promising. About 68% of high school students attend college in the United States, but nearly 40% of those students who go to a four-year school don’t complete the program.

Bringing back vocational training would help expose these students to other options outside of college. We’re doing a disservice to these young adults by not educating them on alternative career paths. Bringing back vocational training would be beneficial to high school students and the entire manufacturing industry at large. 

However, many high schools have begun recognizing this need and searching for ways to diversify the curriculum. Pine Bush High School, right here in Upstate New York, has been actively preparing students for careers in various fields. Principal Aaron Hopmayer has initiated several programs that teach students vocational skills. Most recently he’s leading an effort to develop a PRIME program (Partner Response in Manufacturing Education) at the high school. 

If you’d like to read more about the need to bring back vocational training in schools, you can find the full article here.

There’s Gold in the Hills of the Hudson Valley

How Partnering with Education Institutions can Help Identify your Future Workforce

By Guest Blogger Stephen Casa

As I travel around the Hudson Valley meeting with various leaders in industry, I hear the same concern, “We can’t find enough qualified employees to fill the positions that are being left vacant by retirement, innovation, etc.” This is where a value added strategy can benefit employers: developing collaborative partnerships with education.

The value proposition is simple, participate with an educational institution in one of the following ways: content area consulting, curriculum development, field trip provision, guest speaking, mentoring students, job shadowing, providing externship opportunities for educators, providing internships (compensated and non-compensated) for students who demonstrate readiness, sit on advisory boards, etc. All of these opportunities will allow the education institution to provide you with a glimpse of your potential workforce and it will create an opportunity for young people to learn about your business/industry. They will also be trained in your culture. Often these partnerships lead to long term employment, initially they get you what you need, prepared, employable, entry level employees.

Don’t hesitate to act, contact your local BOCES today and ask how you can be a part of the solution.

Stay connected as I will be contributing regularly with more specific instructions for engagement.

Manufacturing Company Offers Drug Treatment Program to Applicants

Belden, a manufacturing company in Richmond, Indiana, extrudes, weaves, and coats wires that are used in television and Internet installation. The company has been in operation for over a century and is the second largest employer in Wayne County. However, more recently the company is getting attention for their drug treatment program. The program, paid for by the company, allows job applicants who fail the drug screen to receive treatment, and a job offer upon completion.

The drug epidemic is making it increasingly difficult for companies to find qualified workers. Specifically in the manufacturing industry it’s become a challenge to find skilled workers to fill open positions as the current workforce nears retirement age, and even more so when applicants cannot pass drug screens. This program, which is considered to be the first of its kind, gives applicants the chance to improve themselves and the company at the same time. So far they’ve experienced great success and have filled 17 positions though this program in just 4 months.

There are several challenges though, most notably the cost. The initial estimate for treatment was $5,000 per participant, but as with anything there were unanticipated factors that increased the cost further. Some individuals required transportation to the treatment, and participants can’t begin work until they’re drug-free for several months. However, the company is entirely committed to this solution and they feel that the benefits will soon outweigh the costs.

To find out more about the program, and how its help Belden’s employees, you can read the full article here.

New York Manufactures Forecast Continued Growth

Each month the Federal Reserve Bank of New York distributes the Empire State Manufacturing Survey to about 200 manufacturing companies throughout New York State to analyze industry performance. Around 100 of the 200 companies contacted complete the questionnaire, which asks them to report on specific performance indicators and offer their projections for the upcoming months. The respondents are from diverse sectors of the manufacturing industry, providing an unbiased and accurate pool of feedback. Since the start of 2016 these surveys have generated consistently positive results.

The July 2018 results indicate that business activity continues to grow at a steady pace throughout the state. Labor market indicators point to sturdy growth, and the prices received index signals continued moderate increases in selling prices. The headline general business conditions index also still remains at a high level. These results are promising, and the positive forecasts coming from these companies suggest that robust growth is likely in store for the near future.

You can see the full report with survey results here.

Meet Lane – Tool & Die Maker at Schatz Bearing

Lane Mitchell has been working at Schatz Bearing Corporation for the last 11 months as a Tool & Die Maker, and he’s also the newest feature in our video about careers in manufacturing. The Council of Industry’s project, Go Make It, has recently worked with Stage 6 Media to create a video that would highlight Lane’s journey as a toolmaker.

Lane was in high school when jobs within the manufacturing field first struck his interest. However, similar to many other high school students today, he was discouraged from pursuing this career path. Lane’s guidance counselor believed that his strong scholastic performance suggested that an academic path would be more appropriate for him. This prevented him from being a part of his local BOCES program.

Despite the discouragement from his guidance counselor, after high school Lane attended Alfred State College to pursue a degree in Machine Tool Technology. Two years later he received his degree and began his career within the manufacturing field. Prior to his career at Schatz, Lane had 2 other jobs within the field, one as a machinist and another as a toolmaker. He’s extremely satisfied with his decision to pursue a vocational career path, and wants to encourage others with similar interests to not get discouraged if people are unsupportive.

Lane appreciates that everyday at Schatz is different. He’s tasked with creating smaller tools that become a part of much bigger machines to help them run efficiently. Lane said his favorite part of the job is “being able to see something come out of nothing.” Each part doesn’t turn out exactly like the last, which forces him to adapt and overcome small challenges everyday. The satisfaction that Lane receives each day from performing his job is reassuring to him that he chose the right career path.

Lane enthusiastically shared this story with The Council of Industry, and hopes that it will inspire other students who are also interested in manufacturing. Go Make It strives to inform students and educators about careers in advanced manufacturing in an effort to lessen the skills gaps in the Hudson Valley. To learn more about Lane’s job as a Tool & Die Maker at Schatz Bearing check out the video here!


How Construction Points to a Strong Hudson Valley Economy


By Guest Blogger Amy Greiner

Good news! Economic activity in the lower Hudson Valley continues to flourish and move solidly forward. New multi-family buildings, medical, biotechnology and healthcare projects remain as the primary market-drivers, helping the spur a rate of construction in the region that’s not only out-pacing other industries, but also affecting them.

A look at multi-family construction projects shows they’re focused mainly in commuter transit centers in towns such as Yonkers, New Rochelle, White Plains, Tarrytown, Portchester, Beacon and Poughkeepsie. Other expansive residential projects include Sleepy Hollow’s Edge-On-Hudson development in Westchester County, which is transforming the former GM manufacturing site into a residential community, including a proposed 1,177 units of condominiums, townhouses and apartments; a 140-room hotel; 135,000-square-feet of retail space and 35,000-square-feet of office space. The $1 billion, multi-phase development broke ground in May 2016, and, with most of the site and infrastructure completed, the initial phase of building construction is expected to begin shortly.

As well, large and small medical/healthcare/biotechnology projects are happening throughout the region, including Dutchess County’s new 752,000-square-foot, $545-million patient pavilion on eight floors that currently is underway at the Vassar Brothers Medical Center campus in Poughkeepsie.

There’s more good news. Construction isn’t the only industry on the rise. The region’s housing market is on the upswing, too, with sale prices up and inventory levels, down. Additionally, the jobs market remains strong, with the Dutchess-Putnam unemployment rate of 3.6 percent in May 2018 dropping .5 percent from the 4.1 percent it held in May 2017, and the Westchester unemployment rate down to 3.8 percent from the 4.3 percent it hit in the same period.

The construction of multi-family living spaces and health centers, as well as the strong housing market and decreased unemployment rates not only show that the Hudson Valley is performing economically, but also that the region continues to offer a prime quality of life for young professionals, families and seniors.

Amy Greiner is vice president, business development officer, of Tompkins Mahopac Bank, and a member of the Council of Industry’s Workforce Advisory Committee.

The Value of a Manufacturing 101 Education

By Guest Blogger Elisha Tropper

As manufacturers across America seek to recruit a higher-skilled workforce, the messaging to those entering the job market typically runs something along the lines of “this is not your father’s manufacturing anymore.” Certainly, this is accurate, as modern manufacturing no longer stresses the dark and dirty repetitive manual activities along Henry Ford-style production lines but substantially revolves around designing, engineering, implementing, and continuously improving the advancing automation, robotics, and interconnectivity that are its defining features. Across the country, manufacturers and politicians have stressed the need for trade schools and apprenticeship programs to facilitate the education and skills development of those who wish to pursue a career in manufacturing.

However, the industry would do itself a bigger service by introducing manufacturing education earlier and more frequently throughout the educational paths trod by its desired workers, from middle school birds-eye surveys to more detailed high-school and college level courses. Effectively educating the workers of tomorrow about manufacturing prior to their selection of career fields would certainly impact their decisions and grow the pool of potential manufacturing professionals. As important, mainstreaming a substantial overview and understanding of modern manufacturing to those who will ultimately pursue other careers will benefit not only the students but the industry itself.

It is not stretch to state that having a decent understanding of manufacturing is essential for success in many non-manufacturing business and related fields. For example, private equity and venture capital professionals, stock portfolio managers, business reporters, and those who trade or advise on investments in manufacturing companies or industries are far better equipped to effectively analyze their subjects with even a basic understanding of the field. Accountants, lawyers, government workers, and other professions which service the sector would certainly benefit from knowing the fundamentals of manufacturing. And obviously, even a most basic 101-type education would serve any student considering a career in a manufacturing-related field such as:

  • math or the physical sciences (engineering, research, chemistry, etc.)
  • computers (programming, data management, etc.)
  • business (logistics, supply chain management, entrepreneurship, etc.)
  • social sciences (economics, urban planning, industrial psychology, etc.)

The manufacturing sector would itself reap significant rewards from these educational activities. Most obviously, providing an effective introduction of the industry to students at an early stage and continued reinforcement throughout their educational journey will inevitably result in a greater number of students electing to pursue a career in manufacturing. And perhaps of equal significance, even those students who choose other fields will better understand manufacturing, its challenges and issues, and its importance to society. A generation of Americans with such an education would certainly provide improved professional support to the industry and more consistent manufacturing-friendly public policy.

Elisha Tropper is the CEO of Cambridge Security Seals, a Pomona, New York-based manufacturer of tamper-evident security devices.

The Potential of Augmented Reality to Reshape Worker Training

Could augmented reality, or AR, be the way forward for the manufacturing workforce? The problems manufacturing faces with building a skilled workforce have been well documented. New workers coming into the plant are faced with having to adapt to a new work environment of collaborative robots and machine learning-driven applications. At the same time, they have to maintain, or in some cases re-learn, the legacy knowledge that is being lost as older generations exit the workforce. Can AR, an interactive experience of a real-world environment whose elements are “augmented” by computer-generated perceptual information, solve that problem?

Plenty of companies, from large entities like Microsoft to smaller companies and even startups, are pointing AR toward the challenge of worker training. In theory, it could allow trainees an up close look at incredibly complicated machines, and give them an opportunity to work with them in a way that simulates the experience far more effectively than a traditional classroom could, while also keeping them from having to operate the real thing before they are ready. The technology though is still new, and until its is more refined there are reasons to be skeptical of how effectively it could replicate the experience.

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Shed Some Light on… Well, Lighting

Here’s an unusual question: What do you think of your lighting fixtures? Chances are most of you have never considered that, or at the very least haven’t given it much thought. Lighting, especially in offices, tends to put functionality above personality. Well, let’s break that rule for today and take a look at some of the fantastic design work you can do with lighting fixtures.

Niche Modern is a Brooklyn expat located in Beacon. They’re also one of our members. since its founding in 2003, Niche has established a signature collection of stunning modern lighting products by joining together contrasting elements, simple lines, and gorgeous color. Every product is handmade by a team of experienced and talented glass artisans.

As much as we love our members, Niche is just one of many lighting-focused companies creating artistic and imaginative designs in the Hudson Valley. Check out 7 more!

The Factory of Tomorrow

There’s been so much written lately about the future of manufacturing and how new technology, everything from robots to 3D printing, will change the industry. But what will the factory look like when all this emerging tech finally comes together? This fascinating article uses real world examples to paint a picture of what a factory in the Internet-of-Things era might look like:

The contours of the digital factory are still evolving as technology advances, but in today’s nascent reckoning, it looks something like Fujitsu’s plant in Augsburg, Germany. At this site, an all-encompassing information technology backbone controls a supply “supermarket” where components for Fujitsu’s computers and other hardware products are stored. As customer orders are received, parts are picked for assembly by robots, loaded onto self-driving electric vehicles — which make up what’s known as the logistics train — and carried out to production stations using just-in-time and just-in-sequence processes. The specifications of each assembled product may differ and dynamic screens show workers precisely which components belong to each order and display detailed work instructions. Changes to product features can be made on the fly throughout the assembly process by on-site design and engineering teams, whose members are also available to respond to late shifts in customer requirements. Downtime is minimized because predictive maintenance procedures, based on historical and real-time data for each piece of equipment, automatically address incipient problems before a breakdown. The entire production process is paperless, the factory leaves virtually no carbon footprint, and the daily output of 12,000 PCs, laptops, and workstations and more than 1,000 servers ranks Fujitsu’s Augsburg plant among the most productive and cost-effective in the world.

Read the full article to learn more about the hypothetical Factory of Tomorrow.