A worker using Raymond Corporation's virtual reality forklift simulator
A worker using Raymond Corporation’s virtual reality forklift simulator

Broome-Tioga Workforce, SUNY Broome to host Dec. 13 media event

Southern Tier employers are looking for experienced warehouse workers. A partnership between SUNY Broome, Broome-Tioga Workforce, Broome-Tioga BOCES, the New York Department of Labor, the Community Foundation of South Central New York, the Raymond Corporation, Willow Run Foods, Maines and Amrex helped fill that gap, while guaranteeing full-time jobs for everyone who completed a four-week training program.

All of the 21 people who graduated the first-ever Broome-Tioga Workforce Warehouse Opportunity Impact Program are gainfully employed, and the program has become a model for future partnerships.

The program recently received recognition for Best Collaborative Effort from the Continuing Education Association of New York.

Join SUNY Broome, Broome-Tioga Workforce, Broome-Tioga BOCES, local employers, partners and program participants at 10 a.m. Thursday, Dec. 13, to discuss the partnership program and the impact it has made in the local community. The press conference will be held at Broome-Tioga Workforce, located at 171 Front Street in Binghamton.

“The Warehouse Opportunity Impact Program is a huge success! It’s an innovative program that combines workforce development and guaranteed jobs,” said Broome County Executive Jason Garnar. “It’s a win-win for job-seekers and employers, filling a gap of open positions in high-demand industries in Broome County and securing full-time employment for those looking for work. This program’s success is credited to the power of partnerships. I applaud Broome-Tioga Workforce, SUNY Broome, BOCES and all agencies involved.”

 “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,” said SUNY Broome President Kevin E. Drumm. “SUNY Broome has been a workforce development leader for 70 years, and we are thrilled to participate in this and future initiatives.”

“This model is be a framework that could be replicated for businesses in our community to fill their employment needs,” said James Mullins, Assistant Superintendent for Instruction at Broome-Tioga BOCES.

The impetus for the program came from Broome-Tioga Workforce. 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 employers sought, explained Executive Director Sara Liu.

“This program was designed as a response to the feedback we were getting from traditional job fairs. It was designed as a four-week intensive training program with the promise of full-time employment,” Liu said.

More than 90 people applied and underwent a screening process that included a March 14 orientation, as well as a screening and background check. A panel of staff members reviewed applications and the participating employers made the final selection. The training program ran in two cohorts in Spring and Summer 2018.

Partnerships were key to the success of the program, and Workforce met with representatives from Willow Run Foods, Maines and Amrex to develop the curriculum. SUNY Broome and Broome-Tioga BOCES provided the training to workers, which included courses in basic math, basic reading, interpersonal communication skills, problem-solving, effective speaking, accountability and respect, and teambuilding, in addition to material moving equipment instruction and workplace and personal safety training.

Another partner, The Raymond Corporation, provided a virtual reality forklift simulator to provide participants a hands-on experience that proved to be a favorite part of the overall course.

“From the start, participants embraced the virtual reality learning, saying that it offered them a more engaging and realistic experience before performing on the job site,” said Ed Dutkowsky, manager of corporate education and development at Raymond. “The noticeable pride participants felt after completing the VR educational courses was powerful to watch.”

Not only did the Opportunity Impact Program give workers the skills they need to succeed in the workplace, it also helped them overcome barriers such as lack of childcare, lack of transportation, and the job interview and placement process. As a key part of the program, participants were provided with counseling and financial assistance to overcome those barriers to employment, and equipment such as work boots.

The Warehouse Opportunity Impact Program was fully funded by a New York Department of Labor Sector Partnership National Emergency Grant for Work Based Training. The Community Foundation of South Central New York provided the support services participants needed until they received their first paycheck.

“The approach was really holistic. I call it the ‘no excuses’ program,” Liu said.

Outcome and future plans

Workforce plans to track the outcome for the participants at six and 12 months. So far, every worker continues to be employed at a local employer, and are doing quite well.

“Compared to the general population, they were working harder and they were more familiar with the equipment and with the work that needs to be done. They established friendships with one another,” Liu said.

Plans are already under way to use the partnership model in other workforce development efforts, said Janet Hertzog, director of Continuing Education and Workforce Development at SUNY Broome. Work is already underway on establishing a training-to-apprenticeship program for soldering technicians, as well as a program targeting advanced manufacturing.

“This is a model we plan to use for other programs down the road,” Hertzog said.

A worker using Raymond Corporation's virtual reality forklift simulator
A worker using Raymond Corporation’s virtual reality forklift simulator