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Upstate manufacturers have job openings, but need skilled workers to apply

Tom Magnarelli
Rep. Claudia Tenney at a manufacturing roundtable in Rome.

Upstate New York, like the rest of the country, has suffered through decades of job losses in manufacturing. But some manufacturing companies in the Mohawk Valley and Southern Tier can’t find enough skilled workers to fill job openings.

At a manufacturing roundtable at Revere Copper Products in Rome, the companies represented ranged from having a handful of employees to around 2,000. They produce a variety of products including forklifts, cyber security software, military cookware, safety equipment and even beer. Some companies, like Revere, have been around for more than 200 years. The roundtable was hosted by Rep. Claudia Tenney (R-New Hartford). These very different companies share very similar problems.

“They’re here, and they’re struggling to find a qualified workforce," Tenney said. "That’s an issue that keeps being brought up at every plant tour I’m taking.”

For example, Tenney said there are 2,500 job openings in Broome County in many different sectors. Manufacturers said those that are applying to open positions, are coming from the service industry and do not have the necessary job skills. Tenney said community colleges and apprenticeship programs can be great resources for training people.

“Giving people an opportunity to get a job, learn how to grow and gain the skills to be in that job and be in a business,” Tenney said.    

Employers said they need more mechanics, electricians, engineers and other technical workers. And manufacturers admit to get young people to come here, they sometimes need to throw a lot of money their way.

Tenney said one of her priorities is to get President Donald Trump's cabinet on board with her Renew NY-22 program to bolster her district's manufacturing base.

"I think its the key to our future and doing it in a way to grow us organically from the businesses we already have here," Tenney said. "Not luring in big businesses with taxpayer money that sound really impressive, then all they do is just curry favor with politicians. We want to start at the base level with businesses that are already here that want to grow and be successful in our communities."

Tenney on Trump's cabinet

Tenney weighed in on the recent staff shakeup of Trump's cabinet. Former White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer and former White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus both resigned. Earlier this week, White House Communications Director Anthony Scaramucci left his position. Tenney said she predicted that Scaramucci would not last long. Tenney said she also got a chance to meet Trump's new White House chief of staff, retired Marine Gen. John Kelly.

"He's a solid guy, he's a great leader, he's a very humble person," Tenney said. "He's strong and disciplined. I think he could be exactly what the White House needs to get back on track and to get us moving forward on the agenda that we need."

Tom Magnarelli is a reporter covering the central New York and Syracuse area. He joined WRVO as a freelance reporter in 2012 while a student at Syracuse University and was hired full time in 2015. He has reported extensively on politics, education, arts and culture and other issues around central New York.