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‘We found the future,’ Hochul says at launch of rapid job training center at MCC

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Brian Sharp
Students enrolled at the Finger Lakes Workforce Development Center at MCC will train on components like these in an automated manufacturing lab.

A rapid job training and retraining center at Monroe Community College is being billed as a prototype for addressing the shortage of skilled trades workers and technicians.

The center, which will welcome its first students in July, is flexible enough to respond to individual employer needs. And it has a broad reach through partnerships with colleges and agencies throughout the region.

Gov. Kathy Hochul joined in a ceremonial ribbon-cutting on Monday.

"We found the future,” she said, explaining that the center “can launch people in so many different directions. It's not just one industry, one job, one career. It (prepares) people with stackable credentials, and to get the skills they need quickly to step into the jobs that our employers are just begging for.”

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Brian Sharp
Gov. Kathy Hochul speaks Monday, May 23, 2022, at the ceremonial ribbon-cutting of the Finger Lakes Workforce Development Center at Monroe Community College.

Located on the fifth and sixth floors of MCC’s downtown campus, the Finger Lakes Workforce Development Center -- FWD Center, for short -- includes high-tech lab space on one floor, outfitted with equipment that will prepare people for jobs in augmented or virtual reality, cybersecurity, hydraulics, robotics, automation and 3D printing.

A “smart factory” houses a $500,000 system that “incorporates the manufacturing process, quality inspection and the sort process” while also providing training on electrical and mechanical equipment.

“Nobody else is going to offer what we can offer in a place like this,” Hochul said.

The 50,000-square-foot center has separate simulation lab space mirroring the interior of residential and commercial buildings, helping train future electricians, plumbers, pipefitters and others.

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Brian Sharp
The entrance to the the Finger Lakes Workforce Development Center at the downtown Monroe Community College campus.

Job placement, career counseling and experiential learning are all part of the center.

“We are cutting a ribbon on a facility that's going to fundamentally change the way we do workforce development here in our region,” said Monroe County Executive Adam Bello. “And it's going to fundamentally benefit the future growth of our economy.”

Manufacturing currently employs 60,800 individuals, or one out of every eight workers in the region, with average wages significantly higher than the overall region, state labor statistics show.

Bello continued: “This facility is going to make sure that everyone who calls our community home has that chance to succeed.”

An estimated 2,500 people could be trained at the center within the next three years, officials said. The initial classes will enroll in a two-week, 32-hour robotics course, enabling those who complete the training to obtain industry-recognized credentials. Separate courses will be run for high-school students and those already in the workforce.

Funding for the center came from New York state, which put in $11.4 million, and the Ralph C. Wilson Jr. Foundation, which is kicking in $3.2 million to help with startup operational and capital expenses.

Brian Sharp is WXXI's business and development reporter. He has been covering Rochester since 2005, working most of that time as an investigative reporter with the Democrat and Chronicle. His journalism career spans nearly three decades.