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Educators Tour Westchester Manufacturers Magnetic Analysis Corp and Safe Flight

Educators visit MAC

Pictured above: Educators tour Magnetic Analysis Corporation in Elmsford, NY.

Last week the Council of Industry, as part of its ongoing efforts to develop a skilled workforce for Hudson Valley Manufacturers, organized a tour for educators of Westchester County manufacturers.  Partnering with The Workforce Development Institute, Westchester Community College, Southern Westchester BOCES, New York State Senator Shelley Mayer, and Westchester County, we chartered a Coach bus and brought 34 administrators, guidance counselors and teachers to see firsthand the careers and career pathways available to their students in manufacturing.

The tour began at Westchester Community College with a presentation covering both credit and non-credit programs available at the college that teach the skillsets for many of these career pathways. Dean Raymond Houston of Westchester Community College’s School of Mathematics, Science, and Engineering, and Tom Curanovic, Curriculum Chair of Mechanical & Civil Technology at WCC, led a tour of the advanced manufacturing center. This included a CAD lab, a CNC lab (with machines donated by Council of Industry member Fryer Machine,) and the electronics lab, along with a description of the training students receive in these classrooms. There was also some discussion from manufacturers taking part in the tour of the jobs and skills they are looking for when hiring and how the training provided by the college and through apprenticeship programs is beneficial.

After the WCC presentation and tour, the group boarded the bus and set off to their first stop, Safe Flight Instrument Corporation, right next to the Westchester County Airport in White Plains. Safe Flight is a leader in aviation safety and flight performance systems.  The company was founded in 1946 and pioneered the development of Stall Warning and Angle of Attack, Automatic Throttle Systems, Wind Shear Warning, and many other innovations in aircraft instrumentation, flight performance, and control systems for fixed and rotary winged aircraft. As part of the tour, the educators learned more about the company’s history and philosophy. We met with the head of Engineering and learned about the numerous patents the company holds as well as how they test their products right here in Westchester. The tour of the production floor was fascinating for the educators, as they were able to see the CNC machines and machine shop, quality assurance testing, and electronics assembly in action and learn more about the types of jobs that are available in this company and what training is necessary to get started here and the opportunities for growth within the company. Then it was back on the bus and off to our next manufacturer. During the drive, Justin Lukach, President of Mircomold Products in Yonkers, talked about his company, how he got into manufacturing, and some innovative ideas they are trying out at Micromold to increase employee engagement.

After a short ride over to Elmsford, the group disembarked on the tour’s next stop, Magnetic Analysis Corporation, where they manufacture instruments, systems and solutions for nondestructive testing to inspect flaws and defects in tube and pipe, bar, rod, wire, cable, billets, and parts. Their products and testing instruments are used in countless countries and territories, in plants and mills where wire, tubing, bars, and metal parts roll through automatic inspection systems without missing a beat. Here we learned about the history of MAC and why their testing equipment is so important and what skills and background they look for when hiring employees. Greg Gionta, MAC Plant Manager, was also a WCC alumna and a great source of information on the career opportunities available to young people interested in working with their hands.  On the tour, we were treated to a CNC demonstration and watched as parts were readied for assembly in a machine worth over $400,000 headed to the oil and gas industry. Then it was back on the bus and we were off to the next stop, a Con Edison station in Rye.

At our last stop, Con Edison, the group learned about the jobs available in the Energy field and the growth opportunities available depending on your education and training. We heard from several current Con Ed employees about their career paths and how they got where they are today. They emphasized the importance of safety in their field and at Con Edison.

The bus ride back to the Community College featured Evangelo Micas, Assistant Principal for Southern Westchester BOCES, who discussed the programs open to high school students to get started on the path to manufacturing and energy careers. The educators came on the tour hoping to find out more about options for students that may, or may not be, college-bound and they came away with new connections to schools, companies and organizations in their community that are eager to find those same kids and expose them to rewarding career pathways in industry. This event was made possible by funding from The Workforce Development Institute. The Council of Industry looks forward to building these relationships to help develop the manufacturing workforce of the future.

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Meet Sonja Brown – Regional Director at the Workforce Development Institute (WDI)

Sonja Brown and Harold King at the 2019 Manufacturing Champions Award Breakfast 

Sonja Brown is the Regional Director at the Workforce Development Institute (WDI) in the lower Hudson Valley: Westchester and Putnam county. She works directly with employers in the area by “listening to their challenges and finding innovative solutions to help the business get through their struggles.” Whether it’s a non-profit, union, business, government or education provider, Sonja does her part to help them all.

WDI is a statewide non-profit organization with a range of tools – including ground level information, workforce expertise, and funding – to facilitate projects that build skills and strengthen employers’ ability to hire and promote workers. This often fills gaps not covered by other organizations and is accomplished through partnerships and collaborations.

Sonja has always had a passion for helping others. Before becoming a Regional Director at WDI she owned her own business, which used State and Federal funds to help students and their families in Westchester get through difficult times. Sonja recognized that there are many barriers to learning that school districts can’t solve on their own. They need additional support to provide students with the education they deserve. She worked with families who were struggling to the pay rent, feed their children or find stable jobs and helped give them the resources, services and support they needed for their children to succeed at school.

Sonja told us that the experience she gained helping these families prepared her for her job today at WDI. “You see the challenge, you find the solution and you form good networks and partnerships to provide the best support for the problem.” Throughout her time at WDI Sonja has worked with several members of the Council of Industry to help solve their workforce challenges. She told us that most manufacturers come to WDI needing assistance with training employees and updating equipment.

After years of use equipment gets worn down or outdated causing companies to lose their competitive edge, and updating old equipment or purchasing new state of the art machines can be a costly endeavor. Sonja has helped a handful of manufacturers get that updated equipment without messing up their budget, and in some cases the company is even able to bring on more employees as a result. “It’s a win for everyone.” Said Sonja. “WDI wins, the employers win, the employees win and even the individuals looking to get hired win.”

WDI also offers training for current employees and for individuals who are looking to enter the industry. As the manufacturing workforce continues to change and the need for skilled employees grows, Sonja has provided manufacturers with the financial help needed to develop their workforce. Mandated certifications can popup at difficult times but WDI is available to help. Sonja also told us that in the case that WDI’s funding is insufficient for the employers needs she does the necessary research to find additional funding mechanisms to cover the remaining cost.

Sonja shared with us that the application process is so simple even she struggled to believe it when she first started. The entire application is under 6 pages long and it’s all about your company, what you need the money for and your projections on how it will impact the business. A Regional Director, like Sonja, works along side you to fill out the application and in under a week you will know if you’ve been approved. “We know that these employers don’t need help tomorrow, they need help today,” said Sonja, which is why WDI has worked hard to simplify the entire process.

Sonja’s hard work and dedication has been a huge help to the Council of Industry and many of its members. Earlier this year the Council of Industry recognized WDI by awarding them with the Supporting Organization Award at the 2019 Manufacturing Champion Awards Breakfast. WDI was selected because of the significant role that Sonja and Mary Jane Bertram, Regional Director of the Upper Hudson Valley, have played in helping our members address their workforce opportunities and challenges.

If you’re interested in speaking with Sonja about how she can help you, you can contact her at sbrown@wdiny.org. If you’re located in Sullivan, Orange, Ulster, Dutchess, Columbia or Rockland county you can reach Mary Jane at mjbertram@wdiny.org for more information. To learn more about Mary Jane you can read her spotlight article here.

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Meet Mary Jane – Regional Director at the Workforce Development Institute (WDI)

 

Mary Jane is the Regional Director at the Workforce Development Institute (WDI) in the seven counties: Sullivan, Orange, Ulster, Dutchess, Columbia and Rockland. Her job is to work with partners in the region on expanding, promoting and retaining the workforce. Mary Jane works with non-profits, unions, businesses, government and education providers to identify regional workforce challenges and find solutions to those problems. WDI also gathers data on the jobs of tomorrow and uses that information to help prepare the future workforce and employers in an effort to keep those jobs in the region.

WDI is a statewide non-profit organization with a range of tools – including ground level information, workforce expertise, and funding – to facilitate projects that build skills and strengthen employers’ ability to hire and promote workers. This often fills gaps not covered by other organizations and is accomplished through partnerships and collaborations.

Mary Jane has helped countless organizations within the Hudson Valley region, including the Council of Industry. She played a big role in launching the Council of Industry’s NYS Registered Apprentice Program and maintaining its success. Every registered company is eligible for $2,000 per apprentice to offset the cost of running the program. Mary Jane helped to simplify the application process for this money by creating a “common app.” Participating companies are now only required to fill in a small section of information in a pre-populated application form, significantly reducing the amount of time and paperwork this process would typically demand. This has been a huge factor in motivating participating companies to apply for the grant. “The apprentice program model has proven itself to be the best way to prepare and train your upcoming workforce.” Said Mary Jane, “It’s important to expand and deepen these opportunities.”

The Council of Industry’s Apprentice Program officially reached over 60 Apprentices in April and continues to grow. The program is supporting apprentices all throughout the Hudson Valley region and on Long Island. Through a combination of on-the-job training and related instruction the program is designed to help improve and expand upon the apprentices’ overall understanding of the trade as well as the manufacturing industry overall. There are currently six registered trades: Machinist (CNC)Electro-Mechanical TechnicianMaintenance MechanicQuality Assurance AuditorToolmaker and Industrial Manufacturing Technician. Upon completion of the program apprentices receive a nationally recognized accreditation as a journey level worker.

Mary Jane has made a major impact on the manufacturing industry specifically. She’s done her part in helping to keep manufacturers from leaving the state when they outgrow their facilities, and helped companies “upscale” some of their employees with grants to pay for online training. Many companies can become intimidated by the thought of applying for grants. However, WDI has an interactive grant program that simplifies and streamlines the application process. Regional staff work with you directly to understand the issues at hand and then help develop a response. Once completed, turnaround is quick, allowing the entire process to move forward in a timely manner.

Mary Jane’s efforts have not gone unrecognized. WDI was honored last Friday, May 17th, at the 2019 Manufacturing Champions Award Breakfast. WDI was recognized as the organization champion for their work in identifying targeted strategies that address workforce development opportunities and challenges. WDI believes that a healthy manufacturing base is a key driver to grow the rest of the economy and they’re interested in seeing the new jobs of manufacturing – with solid wages and career trajectories – come to New York State. Mary Jane was unable to attend the event, but Sonja Brown, Regional Director in Westchester who has also worked closely with the Council of Industry and many of its members, was able to accept the award.

Mary Jane’s hard work and dedication has been a huge help to the Council of Industry and many of its members. She has been supportive in many other initiatives beyond just the apprentice program. If you’re interested in speaking with Mary Jane about how she can help you, you can contact her at mjbertram@wdiny.org If you’re located in Putnam or Westchester county you can reach Sonja Brown at sbrown@wdiny.org.

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