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Report: LI manufacturers would benefit from strong business group

Raul Flores of Brentwood works on a vertical

Raul Flores of Brentwood works on a vertical mill at Suffolk County Community College's Advanced Manufacturing Training Center in Brentwood on Thursday. Credit: Danielle Silverman

Long Island’s efforts to boost the manufacturing economy must be consolidated into one organization that helps in the hiring and training of employees, according to a report released Thursday.

A single group that's led by factory executives and funded by them is among the recommendations of the 28-page study from the Workforce Development Institute, a nonprofit that helps manufacturers find workers and train them.

Among the state's 10 regions, the Island is the only one that lacks "a single, centralized and fully staffed organization to deploy solutions effectively and sustainably," the report states.

Still, members of the Long Island Legislative Manufacturing Task Force said Thursday the absence of one industry group for Nassau and Suffolk counties shouldn't delay implementation of the report's other recommendations, including the establishment of a worker training center to prepare people for jobs at drugmakers, instrument makers, wholesale bakeries and defense contractors, among others. The task force commissioned the report.

“This would be a regional training center that all schools can use, from high school through college, for training," said Rosalie Drago, the workforce institute's regional director. "Manufacturing offers good jobs that people can enter with any level of education — but they need skills training."

The study calls for an advertising campaign to make young people and their parents aware of manufacturing careers, a program to prepare young people to apply for apprenticeships, and the expansion of a state-registered apprenticeship program that started recently at seven factories.

Officials discussed the recommendations at the Advanced Manufacturing Training Center on the Brentwood campus of Suffolk County Community College. Training was going on in the same room, as apprentice Raul Flores, 26, learned how to use machine tools to make a large plastic block that resembles a Lego building brick. 

"You get to work on an idea, to create something from nothing," he said, when asked why he went to work for Twinco Mfg. Co. Inc. in Hauppauge. He joined the maker of railroad equipment in June 2017 and will earn more money if he successfully completes the apprenticeship.

"This means better pay, better opportunity," the Brentwood resident said, standing next to a Computer Numerical Control machine.

The workforce institute found 700 job openings at manufacturers in Nassau and Suffolk in the past month. There have been 7,642 openings since October 2018.

Some of these positions went unfilled because prospective employees thought they all required standing behind a machine for eight hours per day, said Suffolk Legis. William J. Lindsay III (D-Bohemia).

He authored the legislation that created the 20-member manufacturing task force in late 2017 and has led it with Anne Shybunko-Moore, CEO and owner of defense contractor GSE Dynamics Inc. in Hauppauge.

Long Island is home to 3,000 manufacturers, with a combined payroll of 72,000 people, according to the report. However, that’s down from 165,900 people who worked at manufacturers in 1990.

Suffolk has the most manufacturing jobs among the state’s 62 counties: 55,822.

Shybunko-Moore said, "We must have engagement from everyone — industry, educators, government and Long Islanders as a whole — to understand the value of our manufacturing sector as an economic driver and as a viable and growing career pathway for our youth.”

BOOSTING FACTORIES

The Workforce Development Institute issued recommendations for strengthening Long Island's manufacturing sector. They include:

• One advocacy group led by manufacturers and funded by them

• Advertising campaign to increase awareness of young people and their parents to job opportunities at local factories

• Expand recently established apprenticeship program

• Establish a pre-apprenticeship program to help students apply for apprenticeships

• A regional training center

• Programs to link veterans, the disabled and other groups to manufacturing jobs

• Additional money for training programs

SOURCE: 2019 Long Island Manufacturing Snapshot by the Workforce Development Institute

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