Workforce Training Center
By Ben Rand
The last major manufacturing piece of the original Buffalo Billion took a major step forward in December when the Economic Development Group (EDG) was chosen to run the Workforce Training Center (WTC). Located in the old Niagara Machine factory on Northland Avenue, the WTC aims to address WNY’s current and future needs for advanced manufacturing workers. Success will give WNY manufacturers a significant boost and a potential competitive advantage versus national and even international competitors with workforce shortfalls.
EDG is a partnership among the Buffalo Niagara Manufacturing Alliance (BNMA), Goodwill Industries, Catholic Charities, and Buffalo Urban League (BUL), assisted by a number of other organizations. BNMA, under director Peter Coleman, will ensure that the WTC is market-driven based on input from BNMA’s manufacturing members and others. Catholic Charities and BUL will provide “wrap-around” services, such as remedial education, transportation and childcare, which may be especially important for the unemployed or underemployed who will be part of WTC’s candidate pool.
Industry’s objective, per Coleman and the BNMA, is a stackable credential program, such as the National Association of Manufacturers’ Manufacturing Skills Certification System, that includes apprenticeship credentials, SUNY credits and degree programs, resulting in high-quality, advanced manufacturing workers. The WTC is planning a unique model that could become a national best practice, building on a pilot which is currently running under the auspices of BNMA, the Buffalo & Erie County Workforce Investment Board (WIB) and Erie BOCES. It starts with an intake assessment for every prospective student to establish their skills, education and readiness resulting, ultimately, in a Career Readiness Certificate (CRC).
Students then proceed to training based on the WIB’s “Manufacturing Pathways Program.” Upon completion, students receive a Pre-Apprenticeship Certification and are ready for an entry-level position. Once students are employed they can be sponsored for further training and certifications by their companies in areas such as machining and welding, and can work toward associate or bachelor’s degrees through SUNY and/or others. This program will continue to run as the WTC ramps up with the first, official WTC class anticipated in the Fall of 2018.
Workforce is a critical issue for manufacturers in WNY and nationwide. The WTC promises to make a significant contribution to addressing our workforce needs, but only if it can graduate workers with the skills advanced manufacturers need and will hire. WNY manufacturers must get involved and be part of the solution! Contact Peter Coleman at BNMA to weigh in on the skills and capabilities your manufacturing business needs and to learn how you can help the WTC succeed.