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State lawmakers propose apprenticeship program to replace retiring manufacturers

Ellen Abbott
State Sen. Dave Valesky announcing the new apprenticeship program.

Some state lawmakers want to try out a new job training program for small and medium sized manufacturers in central New York. The state Senate’s Independent Democratic Conference (IDC) wants to spend $500,000 to create a way to train a new pool of workers at a time when a large number of these workers are reaching retirement age.

The average age of an employee in manufacturing today is 56. That’s why Randy Wolken, president and CEO of the Manufacturers Association of Central New York, says a crisis is brewing when it comes time for companies to replace those workers.

"If we don’t do something soon, if we wait five years, ten years, we won’t have the ability to do those replacements we’re talking about,” Wolken says.

"What makes this so viable is that they don't have to do all the heavy lifting themselves."

That’s why Wolken’s supporting a proposal to create the Manufacturers Intermediary Apprenticeship Program.

“What makes this so viable is that they don’t have to do all the heavy lifting themselves,” he says. “They’ll do it collaboratively with their neighbors across the street and in many other countries, coming up with the right types of training that happens in the facility and in community college, which already have had a significant investment.”

The program is supposed to make it easier for companies to start up apprenticeship programs to train future workers, according to state Sen, Dave Valesky, a member of the IDC.

"It would eliminate the need for our smaller manufacturers to register with the Department of Labor,” Valesky says. “Eliminate the need to pay fees and go through other often prohibitive administrative tasks, which often prevent these types of programs from getting off the ground in the first place.”

If the pilot program works in central New York it will spread across the state. The IDC has made it part of a package called A New Deal for New York -- a policy proposal to create jobs and upgrade infrastructure in the Empire State.

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.