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Gillibrand pushes bill to teach manufacturing skills

Ellen Abbott
Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) visited SBB in DeWitt

As manufacturers across central New York and the entire state have trouble finding qualified workers, Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) hopes a bill she supports in Congress can make a difference.  

Recent statistics show that almost a third of New York manufacturers have trouble keeping skilled workers. One of them is SBB, a DeWitt company that specializes in clean room technologies. General manager Brandon Bogart says they have openings for engineers right now that are going unfilled. And that's crimping the company’s future.

“Right now our sales are exceeding our capacity to execute. So if we had more skilled engineers, we would be able to sell more, to deliver more,” said Bogart.

In particular, he says they need to find more young people to get into the manufacturing business. That’s where Gillibrand is hoping the the Manufacturing Universities Act will help. It would designate 25 educational institutions as “manufacturing universities.”

"These designated schools would teach courses on advanced manufacturing engineering, which would prepare more engineers, product designers and innovators, and those who really help drive our economy forward,” said Gillibrand.

Each school would get $20 million over four years to accomplish this goal.

The senator believes that are several schools in New York state that would be a perfect fit.

"We have robust engineering programs. We already have entrepreneurial majors, where different schools will create different curriculum surrounding how you create ideas and transforms them into products. It’s part of the SUNY system, and a lot of our private schools are extremely good at it.”  

And Gillibrand hopes the bill would also help another problem – keeping young people in upstate New York.

“You’re creating synergies between your schools and your workplace. So that frankly, if you’re born and raised in Syracuse, you could actually stay in Syracuse, and you could work at one of our best companies, because you have the engineering degree that you need.”

Gillibrand says the bill has bipartisan support, and she’s optimistic it will make it through both houses of Congress.

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.