PLATTSBURGH — Now is the time to train for a skilled manufacturing job, says Duane Bibeau, program coordinator for mechanical technology at Clinton Community College’s Institute for Advanced Manufacturing.
As a society, he continued, we do not know when the COVID-19 pandemic will be over, he continued.
“But we do know that, when it does, we have to make up for all of the manufacturing that hasn’t occurred for the last six, nine months, a year, 16 months, however long it goes.”
At that point, there will be higher demand for skilled jobs in those fields, Bibeau argued.
“When COVID subsides, there’s going to be jobs out there and it’s going to be a high demand and they’re going to be looking to fill it in a short amount of time.”
The IAM needs the support of area guidance counselors to educate students on the opportunities that can come with a two-year tech degree, including local jobs that start out at $24 to $30 per hour, Bibeau said.
While the IAM’s programs have stayed pretty consistent and not seen big growth in one area or another, students are gravitating toward continuing their education and add more skills to their resumes, he continued.
For example, a handful of students who are finishing up their mechanical technology degrees are looking to pursue an electrical certification through the IAM’s ICE (Industrial/Commercial Electrician) program, which was developed with the IBEW as the college’s first associate’s in occupational studies program, CCC Technology Department Chair Scott Buffett said.
In just one additional year, students can get a second associate’s degree while staying local at an institution they are already familiar with, Bibeau explained.
“Looking at it from a manufacturing company, you have somebody that has all the core benefits of a manufacturing technician, but you also have an electrician so it’s a double-win for them.”
CCC Vice President for Academic Affairs Dr. John Kowal added that students could also engage in the IAM’s newer welding program and add that specialty.
“It’s these add-ons that we’re providing these students so that they get additional training for some key areas in the electrical field or in industry through their welding training.”
One of the IAM’s functions is to be a site for local and regional workforce development training.
CCC President Ray DiPasquale said that, in the past, companies like Bombardier and NovaBus sent in large numbers of employees, but lately their training needs have not surfaced much.
Bibeau explained that sessions of 200 to 300 people may return as companies ramp back up, but manufacturers are currently looking more at specialization training for employees they already have since it is more cost-effective to promote from within, then hire for a lower-level position.
For example, the IAM will be starting up mostly remote entry-level robotics training with Camso that has an evaluation component. That will help employers detect who grasps the material and could be sent on for more training, Bibeau said.
Buffett said he has had inquiries from a group of mechanical engineers who took an electrical class with him last semester and are now interested in taking some pneumatics.
“It’s really like a specialized group,” he continued. “It’s not large groups, it’s groups that have a specific purpose that they’re trying to achieve that I’ve heard from.”
The IAM’s advisory board, composed of representatives from local companies and chaired by DiPasquale and North Country Chamber of Commerce President Garry Douglas, has laid out four strategic goals for the facility that center around marketing, enrollment, partnerships and revenue.
DiPasquale said the board was set to meet Tuesday to define those goals and how to deliver them.
Such partnerships are at the core of how the IAM operates.
For example, Kowal noted, high school seniors in CV-TEC’s New Visions: Applied Engineering Program are currently taking college courses through CCC.
DiPasquale added that the college will soon partner with CFES Brilliant Pathways to virtually introduce students to IAM offerings and potential careers.
In some ways, the pandemic has forced the college to re-orient its priorities, Kowal said, such as how it had to postpone the launch of its essentials in advanced manufacturing micro-credential.
But it has also resulted in more remote opportunities, Buffett posited, since a number of courses had to be brought online in the spring.
The standard operating procedures, or SOPs, in place at the IAM reflect those students will see out in the field, including how companies are approaching pandemic response.
“We have sterilization, we have cleaning stations, they have to wear their masks, they try to maintain six foot distancing,” Bibeau said.
And students who run a fever or have any COVID-19 symptoms are not allowed on campus.
“They’re following those guidelines because that’s how we’re running today — just like a manufacturing facility,” Bibeau said.
Students who have to miss classes due to symptoms or a positive test can make up the lab time at a later date or utilize virtual lessons, he added.
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