Culture Shock and Workforce Development
Colleen Blagg, Manager of Workforce Development and Apprenticeship

“By show of hands, how many of you are willing to quit your job today to start a job training program for a potentially better job in the future?” – Tim Thomas, Chief Strategy Officer and Assistant Vice President for Learning and Academic Affairs, Mohawk Valley Community College

Pondering this question were the attendees of MACNY’s recent Annual Legislative Breakfast, at which MACNY facilitated the Workforce Development panel. No one raised a hand.

It begged several questions: What does it take to entice someone, especially this demographic, to attempt a new career pathway in advanced manufacturing? Should we assume that the unimpressed Gen Z, or the chronically underutilized, economically traumatized, millennial barista with four master’s degrees, would view upskilling or retraining as a rational action in this (or any) economy?

Some facts: University enrollment is down. Millennials are carrying a load of college debt. The public workforce development system is struggling nationwide to expend its annual allotment of funds for training. Businesses struggle to find skilled employees to fill a multitude of “good jobs.” Boomers are ready to retire, as of yesterday. McDonalds is paying $17.00/hour for crew members in Syracuse, NY.

Despite these realities, how do we get more veterans, women, or individuals with disabilities to rejoin the workforce?

Direct Entry Programs & Registered Apprenticeship

First, we’re working to improve recruitment of populations already underrepresented in our current workforce. MACNY has developed several strategic workforce development projects targeting these untapped human resources, including Direct Entry and Registered Apprenticeship Programs. These initiatives provide participants opportunities for mentorship, skills gains, and monetary incentives, including pay (stipends and wage progressions).

With Real Life Rosies, MACNY focuses on recruitment of women, who comprise only 29% of the manufacturing industry’s workforce, even though they are half of the population.

Real Life Rosies draws inspiration from the original Rosie, Rosie the Riveter, from World War II when U.S. manufacturers succeeded in recruiting women into the workforce with patriotic marketing. Just as World War II employers drew women into manufacturing during a severe worker shortage, MACNY hopes to repeat that success with this Direct Entry program, currently piloting in the Mohawk Valley.

Direct Entry has a mandate: to target and recruit specific populations – veterans, women, individuals with disabilities, or racial/ethnic minorities – to prepare them for manufacturing careers, ideally, through Registered Apprenticeship. These are New York State Department of Labor (NYSDOL) vetted programs that adhere to strict guidelines, which include:

  1. Quality technical skills instruction for the trade(s).
  2. Power skills instruction, math/reading remediation, and life skills training.
  3. Wrap-around supports childcare, transportation, and other issues that may affect someone’s ability to work.
  4. Industry support.
  5. Direct opportunities to interview with sponsors of Registered Apprenticeship programs.

Not only have we made sure that Real Life Rosies meets these requirements, but we’ve also gone a step further to ensure that Rosies have access to supportive services. Along with our partner, Working Solutions in Utica, NY, we’ve provided childcare, gas cards, Uber rides, computers, internet service, steel-toed boots (made in the USA), $1,000 stipends – whatever assists participants in gaining and retaining employment. To date, we have graduated 23 Rosies, several of whom have become Registered Apprentices.

MACNY has also been working for several years with the University of Rochester’s Strong Center for Developmental Disabilities to develop career pathways in advanced manufacturing for individuals with disabilities. This year, we proudly launched Advance 2 Apprenticeship in the Mohawk Valley and Finger Lakes regions. This twelve-week, pre-apprenticeship course designed to prepare anyone for a career in manufacturing, will become the basis for MACNY’s application to the NYSDOL to become the first NYS direct entry program that includes individuals with disabilities.

It is important to note that this course utilizes “universal design” principles in its curriculum development and classroom design, to be inclusive of all, regardless of ability. Modeled after Frank Falatyn’s Fala Technologies program, recognized by the New York Association of Training & Employment Professional’s (NYATEP) 2023 Business Leadership award, this blueprint is inclusive of all individuals, regardless of their abilities.

As a Group Sponsor of advanced manufacturing Registered Apprenticeship programs, MACNY remains committed to this life-transforming workforce development vehicle. Contact MACNY and the Manufacturers Alliance at [email protected] to see how we can help you to maintain your competitive edge by developing your talent pipeline through Registered Apprenticeship.

Colleen Blagg can be reached directly at [email protected].