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OCC develops programs to fill food industry skills gap in central New York

Onondaga Community College hopes to close a skills gap in the local agribusiness and food industry sectors of the economy.

According to OCC President Casey Crabill, she estimates there are 2,400 openings in this field every year in central New York.

“It’s a growing field," Crabill said. "It was cited in our region's economic development plan as a field for the future. I think that’s part of the reason our grant was successful, is that we are very tied in to a lot of community efforts tied into this industry already.”

OCC will create five programs meant to train central New Yorkers to fill those jobs, and will work along with the schools already established hospitality program. They range from food safety to hospitality and food service. Crabill says right now some jobs go unfilled because of a skills gap.

“Logistics," Crabill explained. "You can have a great company, but if you can’t move product and you don’t have people who are skilled and trained in thinking through that, that’s a challenge. So that’s one of the areas we’ll tackle pretty soon.”

She says the school is working with local food-related industries in development of these training programs.

"Employers have been in it since before the grant was written and they have some very clear and helpful expectations about the kind of skills that people need to meet their needs," Crabill said. "I know you’ve heard over and over about the skills gap, and this really gets at some of the skills gap, especially in the food sector.’

Crabill says it should take about a year to develop the programs, and expects the school to serve 500 workers over the four-year life of the grant.

The program is being funded through a $2.5 million grant from the U.S. Labor Department.

Ellen produces news reports and features related to events that occur in the greater Syracuse area and throughout Onondaga County. Her reports are heard regularly in regional updates in Morning Edition and All Things Considered.