Rochester Tooling & Machining Association

Keynote Address

Workforce Development Another Look

Kevin J. Kelley, RTMA Executive Director

As you know, the RTMA is heavily focused on workforce development. We provide scholarships to students for the precision machining program at Monroe Community College (MCC), we are financing the RTMA/MCC Accelerated Precision Machining Program and, with our training partner, MCC, we implement a summer education and training program for city youth. We also provide a placement program for our members to facilitate the hiring of quality candidates.

I have been invited to participate as a panelist in a program entitled "Closing the Skills Gap: Challenges and Opportunities for Higher Education". This is a Monroe Community College Event, which will be held on May 6. The event centers on closing the skills gap, an issue with which employers increasingly struggle, as they seek to hire a qualified workforce. National speakers will share labor market data on the state of middle skills jobs. Further, they will identify best practices and opportunities in higher education that address these workforce shortfalls.

Other panelists will be from educational institutions, business and community organizations, who will address the skills gaps affecting the Greater Rochester Economy. We know that there has been a chronic shortage of qualified workers in precision machining. To address this, the RTMA has been promoting advanced manufacturing on a continuum. We have written editorials, made talk show appearances, produced television commercials, attended career nights and provided plant visits in order to make the case for manufacturing careers.

It is encouraging that higher education, public policy makers and other business organizations are unifying in an effort to provide the appropriate skilled labor supply. Specifically, those individuals with the "middle skills" that are so desperately needed for the private sector to compete in the marketplace.

However, we already know that school districts in our region have very few students engaged in any programs leading to a career in manufacturing. While West Side BOCES offers a precision machining program, East Side BOCES terminated their program last year. Edison Tech has very few students in its precision machining program, but is making an effort to revamp it.

The RTMA, and others, have been calling for a career technical education program leading to a diploma for high school students. This provides a systemic approach to meeting the needs of a variety of industries, as well as the needs of the students. The New York State Regents have dragged their feet on this issue. This is not a good thing. Consequently, the RTMA will seek strategic partners, and continue to advocate for a career technical education diploma.

« Back to Keynote Addresses