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Manufacturing apprenticeship program planned for Long Island

On the Island, apprenticeships are commonplace in construction but rare in manufacturing.

Jim Walsh, an instructor in Suffolk County Community

Jim Walsh, an instructor in Suffolk County Community College's manufacturing training program, demonstrates a pill filling operation used to prepare students for production jobs at local drugmakers. He was an exhibitor at the Long Island Manufacturers' Symposium in the Melville Marriott on Tuesday, Nov. 27, 2018. Photo Credit: Barry Sloan

Workforce trainers, responding to a shortage of skilled factory workers, plan to start Long Island's first state-certified apprenticeship program in manufacturing, officials said Tuesday.

The Manufacturers Alliance of New York, a trade group based in Syracuse, has created apprenticeship programs at more than 50 plants upstate that together have provided jobs to 125 entry-level workers since last year.

The alliance has been working with the Workforce Development Institute, a nonprofit group based in Albany, and a local manufacturer to develop an industrial mechanical technician apprenticeship, according to Martha Ponge, the alliance’s director of apprenticeship.

On the Island apprenticeships are commonplace in construction but rare in manufacturing.

“This is not a training program in hopes of getting a job,” Ponge told factory executives at a daylong conference in Melville. “This is a job with a structured learning process, with negotiated wage increases if the apprentice reaches certain benchmarks,” such as completing classes at a community college.

She spoke on a panel at the first-ever Long Island Manufacturers’ Symposium, which was organized by the New York State Economic Development Council, a trade group for industrial development agencies. About 150 people attended the event, according to council executive director Ryan M. Silva.

Rosalie Drago, the institute's Long Island director, said apprenticeships could help ease the shortage of skilled production workers, which she said is the No. 1 challenge facing plants.

In a survey this month 40 percent of New York State factory executives said the inability to find trained workers is the primary  factor preventing them from expanding their payroll, according to the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, which polled about 100 manufacturers.

“We’re all working together to address this issue,” Drago said Tuesday, referring to state and local government agencies, colleges, nonprofits and the private sector.

She also said an employer’s cost to set up an apprenticeship program can be offset, in some instances, by state tax credits and grants from the state and nonprofits.  

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