Meet Barbara Reer – Director of Professional Technology Programs at SUNY Ulster

 

Meet Barbara Reer, the Director of Professional Technology Programs in SUNY Ulster’s Continuing and Professional Education Department. Reer has been instrumental in leading SUNY Ulster’s Advanced Manufacturing Program, which helps educate students at all levels about the many opportunities for success available in the manufacturing industry. They offer a wide range of courses taken by apprentices, pre-apprentices, current employees in the industry looking to update or gain new skills, and even interested individuals who have no previous experience in manufacturing.

Reer’s role also goes beyond Advanced Manufacturing to include the Building Science, Web Development and Clean Tech programs. She writes grants, programs courses, seeks funding and works directly with students to build career pathways by assessing their performance in the programs and helping them find job leads. Reer herself has an Engineering degree and was part of the first graduating class with women in engineering at Western New England University. She later went on to work in manufacturing, gaining firsthand experience that she uses to help her students today.

“What I enjoy the most about this job is working with the students and helping them face their challenges.” Said Reer. “Sometimes we get students who tried college a long time ago and it didn’t work out for them, but now they’re coming back and discovering that with the right career pathway they can succeed.” SUNY Ulster offers both credit and non-credit courses to help meet the needs of all their students. Credit bearing courses help students work towards a degree or micro-credential. Non-credit courses provide no physical certification but help build knowledge and improve skills.

Reer told us that its often rewarding to see students transition from one program to the other. She’s seeing a spike in the amount of young people interested in manufacturing and recently helped a student working towards his Associate’s degree in Sound Engineering transition into the Manufacturing Certificate Program. His decision to switch was largely motivated by the steady, well-paying career opportunities available for CNC Machinists. He’ll compete his degree by taking manufacturing related courses as electives and start the Manufacturing Certificate Program the following semester.

Reer also works with local employers and educates them about the opportunities available to train their current workforce. She provides them with information about courses and even helps secure funding when necessary. To help with the cost SUNY Ulster applied for and received the SUNY Apprenticeship Grant, which gives registered apprentices the opportunity to take up to $5,000 worth of trade-related courses for free. They also received funding for the Pre-Apprentice Program, which will pay for $500 worth of courses for students in entry level positions who aren’t yet at the apprentice level.

The biggest hesitation and challenge that Reer sees employers and students facing is finding the time to take advantage of these training opportunities. Attending classes after work can lead to very long days that some students either can’t or don’t want to commit to, and employers often prefer that they don’t take classes during work hours. This is an obstacle that they’re still working on solving, but Reer told us that in an effort to help she actively goes out into the community and establishes relationships with manufacturers to work on developing programs that better fit their needs.

However, Reer told us that when students and employers are committed to the process there is a tremendous opportunity for growth. She shared with us that about 6 years ago SUNY Ulster had a Guaranteed Jobs Program to help build a pool of qualified and skilled workers for manufacturers in the area. They had a student who enrolled in the program and went on to work for Fair-Rite Products as a Welder. He recently returned to SUNY Ulster looking to upgrade his skills and learn more about CNC machining. “It’s so good to see that 6 years ago he took an entry level course with us and now he’s coming back for additional training so he can move up the career ladder at his company.” Said Reer.

As for the future of workforce training, Reer told us that SUNY Ulster is partnering with The Arc in an attempt to duplicate a program being offered in California that helps train students with intellectual and developmental disabilities for manufacturing jobs. This is all part of SUNY Ulster’s plan to reach deeper into the community and build the manufacturing workforce needed in the Hudson Valley. The college is also embracing applied learning initiatives and shifting towards a more hands-on approach to teaching.

If you’re interested in learning more about SUNY Ulster’s Advanced Manufacturing Programs you can contact Barbara Reer at reerb@sunyulster.edu or (845) 802-7171. There are still seats available for an upcoming CNC Programming course starting mid-October and a Blueprint Reading course coming up in November. Please reach out for more information about course descriptions, times and locations.

 

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The Council of Industry offers a variety of resources to help strengthen the Hudson Valley’s manufacturing workforce.

A NYS Registered Apprentice Program helps manufacturers build their workforce from within. The program has two basic elements. The first, On-the-Job Training (OJT), consists of a journey-level, craft person capable and willing to share their experience with an apprentice, in a hands-on manner. The second, Related Instruction (RI), consists of learning more theoretical or knowledge-based aspects of a craft. Currently available trades include: CNC Machinist, Electro-Mechanical Technician, Maintenance Mechanic, Quality Assurance Auditor, Toolmaker and Industrial Manufacturing Technician (IMT). 

The Council of Industry also offers a Collaborative Recruiting Initiative to help members attract the qualified candidates they need to fill their job openings. Participating companies post their job opportunities on our manufacturing-specific job board: HVMfgJobs.com to attract individuals with the skills and aptitude needed to succeed.

For more information about these resources please contact Johnnieanne Hansen at jhansen@councilofindustry.org or (845) 565-1355.

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