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Investing in Human Capital
Frank Falatyn, Harold King, and many others are investing heavily in the education of tomorrow's manufacturing workforce. Through the Council of Industry, companies are working with educators throughout the Hudson Valley to train the next generation of workers. "We're not just supporting education because we're nice guys. We're doing it to survive," says Falatyn. One of the most successful programs is the Pathways in Technology Early High School and College program or P-TECH. It's a collaboration between local manufacturers and Ulster BOCES to train high school students in manufacturing, allowing them to graduate with an associate's degree. Now in its second year, the program is popular and has become a model for similar programs throughout the state. Though it's just begun and is relatively small at just over 50 students, it holds a lot of promise. "Summer vacation came and these kids wanted to keep coming to school," says Frank Falatyn. "We can't keep them away."
There's also the Certified Technician Program at SUNY Ulster and Dutchess Community College, an intensive course offering students the basic skills they need (such as operating and caring for milling machines and lathes) to become self-sufficient employees at local manufacturers. "Generally speaking, anyone who has come out of the program has a job if they want one," says King.
This year, the first enrollees of SUNY New Paltz's mechanical engineering program are graduating. Since 2014, the program has rapidly expanded and now includes 150 students, ready to meet the high demand for educated workers among local manufacturers. The program began as a direct response to the needs of industry for more qualified engineers, and many students work directly with local companies during the course of their college careers.
The economic benefits of advanced manufacturing are increasingly being recognized, and government is working with regional economic development agencies to bolster the industry. One of the nation's most useful programs to support small manufacturers is the network of manufacturing extension partnerships, or MEPs. MEPs receive support at the state and federal level to provide expertise in engineering and business practices to small-to-medium size manufacturers.
The Hudson Valley's MEP is the Manufacturing Technology and Enterprise Center, or MTEC. For over 20 years, MTEC has helped support local manufacturers with engineering expertise, best business practices, and collaboration with educational institutions. Recently, they worked with VistaLab, a laboratory equipment manufacturer, to streamline inventory management and implement green initiatives. MTEC maintains a close relationship with SUNY New Paltz and helps train engineers through an internship program. Executive Director Tom Phillips explains "for every dollar spent on MEPs, nine dollars return to the economy" through increased sales, job creation, and additional income tax. Everton Henriques, regional technology specialist at MTEC, explains "Manufacturing is still very strong in New York. It gets overshadowed by the financial market, where money is concentrated in the hands of the few. In manufacturing it reaches a broader base." In many ways, MEPs like MTEC are one of the key components to the health and vibrancy of small-to-medium manufacturers.
- Roy Gumpel
- Joseph Gilbert shows off his prosthetic "robo hand" that was 3D printed at SUNY New Paltz's Additive Manufacturing Center.
One of the most significant organizations in the region is the Hudson Valley Economic Development Corporation, or HVEDC, which has seen a large degree of success targeting industry sectors in "clusters" for economic advancement. HVEDC was instrumental, for instance, in supporting Regeneron through efforts in the regional biotech industry. Their latest focus is in 3D printing, implemented at the Additive Manufacturing Center at SUNY New Paltz. Additive manufacturing and 3D printing are mostly synonymous, and refer to technologies that enable small-scale rapid prototyping in a wide variety of applications. Larry Gotlieb, the head of the HVEDC, says, "On the day of the launch we had an event with about 200 people. Out of 200 people, maybe 195 had no clue what 3D printing was." Just a short time later, he says, "We have Ivy League colleges from across the country visiting to see if they can replicate it."