NY: Local Advanced Manufacturing Institute Proposed

Aug. 10--PLATTSBURGH -- A local Advanced Manufacturing Institute would help align local workforce development initiatives.

Dr. Christopher Koliba, director of the Master of Public Administration Program at the University of Vermont, is a consultant with Integrative Sustainable Solutions. He detailed findings of a study they conducted on behalf of the Clinton Community College Foundation and The Development Corp. that supports the college's SUNY 20/20 grant proposal to create such a center on campus.

Koliba said that, according to the manufacturing.gov web site, advanced manufacturing encompasses a wide array of manufacturing activities that depend on the use and coordination of information, automation, computation, software, sensing and networking to manufacture a variety of value-added products and lean manufacturing practices.

The underlying assumption driving the project was that for Clinton County to thrive economically, it will need to align current and projected workforce development initiatives with current and future industry needs.

That need is apparent locally, as a survey of 15 local businesses showed 216 advanced manufacturing positions exist there, and 264 new jobs are anticipated soon. Those companies expect that latter figure to at least double during the next five years.

Clinton Community already has a number of advanced manufacturing related programs grouped under its Training and Education in Advanced manufacturing. It offers degrees in such areas as electronics, photovoltaics, wind technology, industrial maintenance and more.

Regionally, many education initiatives also exist or are in formative stages, such as Pathways in Technology Early College High School Partnerships (PTECH), Advancing Careers through Technical Training, Assembling Industry: Manufacturing and Education (AIME), the THRIVE partnership and more.

The regions' educational institutions, businesses and economic development organizations such as The Development Corp. and North Country Chamber of Commerce have also shown a willingness to work together, Koliba said.

"You have enough in place now to have it (institute) branded as such," he said.

Even if the grant proposal doesn't get approved, Koliba said the local partners should move forward. It could happen initially through a virtual presence online prior to creation of a physical center.

The institute would provide a one-stop shop to learn about the various opportunities that are available for students and employers. It could also help employers increase opportunities for internships and other ways students can gain experience within a company or industry.

SpencerARL Plant Manager John Vermette said it is good to see the community coming together in recognition of the need for an advanced manufacturing institute. He said employers such as his company see the need for a solid workforce pipeline.

"I look at this as a conduit for our future growth over the next five to eight years," Vermette said.

The region has tremendous opportunities in manufacturing, especially in the mass transit field. It is sometimes a struggle to find employees equipped for the ever-changing technology used in those products.

"We have to make sure we don't lose those manufacturers because we can't meet that labor pool," he said.

Lee Ann Pray, head of human resources and interim head of manufacturing at Swarovski Lighting, said the company works with many of the education initiatives.

The workforce available for advanced manufacturing careers locally is getting tighter all the time. It seems many don't see the opportunities that are available at the global companies that have a presence in the area, she said.

"It will be great to have one place to go that houses all of the great initiatives in this area," she said. "I'm pleased that Clinton Community and The Development Corp. took the initiative to do this study and get this done."

Clinton Community College Director of the Center for Community and Workforce Development Paul DeDominicas said creation of an advanced manufacturing institute is one way to ensure the various initiatives in the region are aligned toward a common goal. He has worked with those behind many of the programs that work to steer students toward advanced manufacturing careers as well as the businesses that rely on those workers, but having it all in one location would be a tremendous benefit to students and employers.

"This is what we've worked toward for a very long time. I'm pleased to see it moving forward," he said.

Email Dan Heath: dheath@pressrepublican.com

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