James Woods is no stranger to workforce training and development programs, but only one led to a guaranteed job at the end.
Now an employee at Amrex Chemical Co., Woods was among the 21 graduates of the Warehouse Opportunity Impact Program, which connected the unemployed with the skills,training and ultimately the jobs they needed in the local warehouse sector.
“It gives you more motivation. You look forward to getting up and going to these trainings because at the end of the day, you’re guaranteed a job,” Woods said.
The program resulted from a web of partnerships between Broome-Tioga Workforce, SUNY Broome, Broome-Tioga BOCES, the New York State Department of Labor, the Community Foundation of South Central New York, the Raymond Corporation, Willow Run Foods, Maines and Amrex. This fall, the Warehouse Opportunity Impact Program received recognition for Best Collaborative Effort from the Continuing Education Association of New York.
The ultimate goal was to connect people who need jobs with employers seeking to fill positions. Oftentimes, people from disadvantaged backgrounds seeking work would head to regional job fairs but return empty-handed because they didn’t have the job-readiness skills sought by employers.
One of the greatest challenges in Broome County is filling the approximately 4,000 vacant jobs in the region, noted Broome County Executive Jason Garnar during a Dec. 13 press conference at Workforce.
“If we don’t get them filled, they’re going to go elsewhere,”he said of employers. “We’ve had to do new and innovative things in order to connect people with jobs.”
Employment trends have shifted through the years,acknowledged Woodie Robins, general manager at Amrex; he has seen it firsthand.
“Twenty years ago, companies were flooded with applications.Those days have come to an end,” he explained. He added that the program has been a great benefit for his company and others in the area, and hoped that future programs would address another regional need: the lack of CDL drivers, many of whom are retiring.
The four-week training program operated a bit like a bootcamp, Garnar noted. Workers took classes in basic math and reading,interpersonal communication skills, problem-solving, effective speaking,accountability and respect, and team building, in addition to material moving equipment instruction and workplace and personal safety training. The Raymond Corporation provided a virtual reality forklift simulator, which gave participants a hands-on experience.
The program also helped workers overcome obstacles such as a lack of childcare, transportation or even equipment such as work boots, thanks to funding from the Community Foundation.
While people often associate SUNY Broome with Associate’s degrees and Broome-Tioga BOCES with high school diplomas, both institutions play a significant role in workforce development, SUNY Broome President Kevin E. Drumm noted. The college has been a workforce development leader for much of its 70-year history – not only through its degree programs, but via the non-credit classes offered by the Office of Continuing Education and Workforce Development, he said.
“As a community college, part of our mission is to give individuals of all backgrounds access to the educational resources they need to succeed. The Warehouse Opportunity Impact Program is a shining example of this sort of work, and a real testament to the power of partnerships,” Dr. Drumm said.
The program is a great model for the region, added James Mullins, Assistant Superintendent for Instruction at Broome-Tioga BOCES. And indeed it will continue to be, as Workforce works on similar initiatives to fill employment gaps in other high-need areas, added Executive Director Sara Liu.