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Career & Technical School News

Employers: 'We can't find help;' CTE: 'We can help'

CTE seeks to address the middle skills jobs gap


Sal Audino weldsEmployers and Capital Region BOCES Career and Technical School are working together to address the national shortage of skilled labor.

During testimony earlier this year to Congress, television personality and blue collar jobs expert Mike Rowe of "Dirty Jobs" fame and now head of mikeroweWORKS Foundation said that more than 5 million jobs remain unfilled because workers don't have the right skills.

In the Capital Region, the shortage — known as the middle-skills jobs gap is just as pervasive, with employers unable to fill middle-skills/skilled labor jobs ranging from welders and machinists to sterile processing technicians and mechanics.

"It's very difficult to find diesel mechanics, welders and truck drivers," said Sybil Laraway, human resources manager for Carver Companies.

The vast majority of these jobs require education beyond high school, but not necessarily a four-year degree, and fall into the category of "middle-skills" jobs. Middle-skills professions currently make up the largest part of the labor market in the United States, and many workers employed in middle-skills fields are earning more than their counterparts who possess four-year degrees.

Take for example 2016 welding graduate Ian Mayo.

The Ravena-Coeymans-Selkirk Central School District graduate parlayed his training at CTE and a work-based learning placement into a journeyman welder position with a local union.

"A job opened up on Middletown and they were impressed again with my welding, so they sent me there as full-time journeyman with a full rate of $40.50 an hour plus time-and-a-half and double-time," said Mayo, who noted that he is often working six, 10-hour or 12-hour shifts and earning overtime pay for workdays exceeding eight hours.

Perception vs. reality

One of the biggest issue involves perception everyone from students and parents to educators all-too-often believe middle-skills or skilled jobs are dead-end careers with few rewards.james Dutton

"We need to change the status. In Germany, a machinist is held in the same status, in the same esteem, as an engineer," said Tony Hynes, CEO of Precision Valve and Automation (PVA), during a panel discussion at Capital Region BOCES last year. "That is not the case here."

"It's important for young people and their parents to know that being in heating, ventilation, air conditioning and refrigeration (HVAC), electrician or any of these careers doesn't mean you can't pursue a college degree later in life. It's really about lifelong learning and preparing our youth for changes in careers and the careers that exist out there," added Richard Bennett III, associate dean of continuing education, summer sessions and workforce development at Hudson Valley Community College.

Capital Region BOCES maintains more than 200 business and institution connections, with these partners providing everything from work-based learning opportunities for students to guest educators and added training for students preparing for competitions.

Earlier this year, 39 business and education partners took part in a career fair at the Schoharie Career and Technical Education (CTE) campus.

"Opportunities like this are very important to helping businesses find trained employees," Laraway said.

Indeed, partnerships can pay dividends on both ends of the spectrum.CNA students

BOCES worked with Albany Medical Center to create a sterile processing technician program at the high school level. The program, which prepares students for careers sterilizing surgical and medical instruments, launches this fall after a very successful run for adult BOCES students.

How successful? One hundred percent of the program's graduates found work in the field. 

"In this global economy, it's crucial for educators to work with business partners to ensure the education they require is being delivered in the schools so that we can all grow and succeed," said Nancy Liddle, Capital Region BOCES CTE business liaison.

Top photo: Welding student Sal Audino; middle photo: James Dutton, a heavy equipment/commercial construction student; bottom photo: Samantha Barnes and Marygrace Nichols, nurse assistant students.


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