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New scholarship aims to help North Country’s manufacturing workforce shortage

Cara Chapman, North Country Public Radio
Posted 9/6/22

A new initiative aims to help with the North Country’s manufacturing workforce shortage.

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New scholarship aims to help North Country’s manufacturing workforce shortage

Posted

A new initiative aims to help with the North Country’s manufacturing workforce shortage.

The Advanced Manufacturing Scholarship Program, funded by Maryland-based company Xometry, will provide full-tuition scholarships for up to 80 students at Clinton Community College over the next two years. The college and its workforce partners unveiled the program at CCC’s Institute for Advanced Manufacturing last week.

Sylvie Nelson, the North Country Workforce Partnership’s executive director, said the number one thing she hears about from local employers is their struggle to hire workers.

“We cannot, unfortunately, at this time in our history really fulfill their needs,” she said. “But what we can do is take a step back and take a look at what we can do to solve it in a long-term type of approach.”

The Advanced Manufacturing Scholarship Program is part of that approach. Nelson said participants may include the unemployed or under-employed, but also high school students, retirees or people simply looking to switch careers.

Regional workforce partners, State Sen. Dan Stec and Congresswoman Elise Stefanik attended the scholarship program’s recent launch event. Stefanik said she immediately thought of Clinton County and Plattsburgh when she learned Xometry was looking for regions to invest in.

“This investment will go towards … 40 to 80 training programs for good-paying jobs in machinists and technicians,” she said. “That ties right into what we do in the North Country and those are good-paying jobs for long-term careers.”

Hybrid programs

Students in the scholarship program will work toward a microcredential in advanced manufacturing. CCC President John Kowal described the microcredential as a hybrid program that combines hands-on lab time with online coursework.

“The hands-on experiences will be basically in tool usage, machinery, safety — those key concepts that are so important for machinists,” he said. “That’ll be done here, right here in place (at the IAM).

“And then the rest is delivered online. It’s the skills-based knowledge that’ll be delivered online, again, in a flexible way so it’s for the convenience of the participants.”

According to Nelson, the advanced manufacturing microcredential will allow new employees to start with a base knowledge of manufacturing. That way, employers can immediately start training them to their specific needs.

Kowal said SUNY aims to implement microcredential programs across the system. They fit into existing certificate and degree programs, and are intended to serve as pathways to further study or careers.

CCC is exploring microcredentials within its business degree, as well as in the health care and criminal justice fields, Kowal said.

“Every little bit helps”

Nelson said her organization also supports programs that give students exposure to local companies. The goal is to foster partnerships between area schools and businesses.

“That’s a way to solve the workforce development in a long-term solution because we’re looking at little pockets here and there, but ideally we want to really expand it and make it the norm.”

Nelson said workforce challenges are a local as well as global problem and, unfortunately, there are no quality short-term solutions. But with as many as 80 new technicians being educated through the manufacturing scholarship program, she said, “Every little bit helps.”

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