CCC aligns programs to educate a job-ready workforce

2013-02-13T03:05:00Z CCC aligns programs to educate a job-ready workforceDr. Daniel P. Larson, Special to The Citizen Auburn Citizen

Last month, during his State of the State address, Gov. Andrew Cuomo outlined his vision of linking community colleges with employers to identify the skills and knowledge required by the workforce of today, and then to develop the academic programs that meet those needs. At Cayuga Community College, that already is happening.

During fall 2011, Dr. Anne Herron, our provost and vice president for academic affairs, convened the Program Development Committee, comprised of faculty division chairs, the dean of enrollment management and the dean of community education and workforce development, the associate vice president and dean of the Fulton campus, the director of institutional research and planning, and representatives from Cayuga and Oswego counties. Their goal was to identify new academic programs that align with the college mission and vision, and with the needs of the communities we serve.

Their work started with reviewing workforce development data, including the Five-Year Strategic Plan of the Central New York Regional Economic Development Council, as well as college and SUNY enrollment and transfer student data. The REDC plan identifies these six growing or emerging industry sectors in central New York: clean energy and environmental systems; financial services; tourism; agribusiness and food processing; health, biomedical and biosciences; and advanced manufacturing. The committee reviewed statistics from the department of labor, input from workforce development professionals and related information. Based on this research, we are focusing our initial efforts around the development of these three programs that support area workforce development needs: certified occupational therapy assistant, advanced manufacturing and plastics manufacturing technology.

We are making great strides in reaching this goal. In September, we were awarded $629,306 to develop a new advanced manufacturing project in the plastics industry for New York state and to support statewide workforce development initiatives. This project is part of the recent $14.6 million SUNY grant from the federal Trade Adjustment Assistance Community College and Career Training program. We are developing a degree program in plastics technology to help meet the needs of the plastics industry and to prepare students for entry or advancement with area companies such as Currier Plastics, Tessy Plastics and Bo-Mer Plastics. This will be the only plastics professional development and training program in New York state that meets the standards of the National Alliance for Manufacturing. We are working closely with community college partners and the plastics industry to close skill gaps in the area workforce and to grow the labor pool of plastics professionals.

The college supports advanced manufacturing, not only in the plastics industry but also with other regional employers, including Welch Allyn, McIntosh Box & Pallet, and Novelis. We assisted the first two companies to implement lean manufacturing concepts that improve production lead times, reduce inventory and enhance overall efficiency. We are an integral part of the recent $200 million expansion at Novelis. This Oswego plant was selected for expansion, partly because of our partnership to provide employee training. We matched our Cayuga courses to the skills needed for their new maintenance mechanic and maintenance electrician jobs, offered eight courses to Novelis employees, developed a “bridge” mathematics class to help employees who have been away from the classroom to be college-ready, and are creating an entry-level skills program to fill existing openings. Our Program Development Committee has begun work on a degree in advanced manufacturing, with concentrations in digital and electronics devices, metals production and manufacturing, and precision manufacturing. We expect that these projects will help our industry partners to thrive, continuing their own growth and development.

Similarly, we are collaborating with SUNY Upstate Medical University and New York Chiropractic College to develop the new associate degree in health sciences that prepares students for transfer into bachelor’s programs in one of eight high-demand career tracks. Characterized by the U.S. Department of Labor Department as the “fastest growing jobs through 2018,” they include medical imaging/radiography, medical technology and biotechnology, radiation therapy, respiratory therapy, physical therapy, cardiovascular perfusion, and chiropractic medicine. Our credit-free division introduced six new medical career-training programs to help develop the workforce ready for the predicted 5.7 million new health-related jobs by 2020. Students who enroll in these certificate programs are job-ready in one semester to work in medical assisting, medical coding, electronic health records and dental assisting, or as EKG or pharmacy technicians. Our graduates in these programs are finding jobs in central New York. Through our research and conversation, we would like to establish the certified occupational therapy assistant program. The U.S. Department of Labor predicts that the need for these positions will increase 43 percent through 2020, much faster than average for all occupations. Cayuga can help fill this need — currently there are no certified occupational therapy assistant programs in central New York. We see potential to partner with area four-year schools that offer bachelor’s and master’s programs in occupational therapy as part of the continuing career track for people interested in this field.

Our goal in developing these programs is to create educational ladders so people can step into programs wherever they may be in their careers and outline pathways to move up in their chosen fields. In his budget, Gov. Cuomo includes $3 million for community colleges to implement performance-based funding based on measures such as program completion, preparation for job placement and program alignment with workforce needs. We look forward to hearing more details about this plan. We believe that Cayuga already is stepping up to the challenge of educating a workforce ready for the jobs of today, as well as for those of tomorrow.

Dr. Daniel P. Larson is president of Cayuga Community College, with campuses in Auburn and Fulton.

Copyright 2015 Auburn Citizen. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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