Love working in a hands-on environment? If so, manufacturing, which focuses on the creation of goods through making, building, and assembling, may be the industry for you. According to the Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy, investments in advanced manufacturing jobs are helping to bridge the gap between innovation and industrial production.
Locally, Westchester is a hub for advanced manufacturing, as the industry helps produce items such as inspection equipment, plastic fluid handling products, circuit boards, and aluminum parts. For those interested in acquiring the skillset to enter the field, there are a number of local training programs in the county and the greater Hudson Valley for advanced manufacturing positions.
“The majority of people who go into advanced manufacturing really enjoy working with their hands and making things,” says Jim Irvine, the Director for Corporate Education at SUNY Westchester Community College.
Aspiring manufacturing workers can gain expertise in a variety of programs throughout the Hudson Valley. The Manufacturing Apprentice Program offered by The Council of Industry helps employers develop the skilled workers they need. In addition, the Westchester-Putnam Career Center Network offers reimbursement for manufacturing training. SUNY Westchester Community College also offers two different programs related to advanced manufacturing. Depending on a person’s skillset and area of interest, they can enter the metalworking skills program or the production technician program.
“We have more people interested in the trades and working with their hands again,” says Harold King, President of The Council of Industry. “However, there aren’t many places for people to get the specific skills they need for these jobs. Our program is a great way to take someone who is interested in manufacturing and give them the skills they need to be successful in a job.”
The Council of Industry has been the Hudson Valley’s Manufacturers’ Association since 1910. In the Manufacturing Apprentice Program, registered apprentices get up to 8,000 hours of on-the-job training. Each apprentice completes 114 hours of outside training every year, which is split between online and in-person coursework. The goal of the program is for people to have a holistic understanding of the trade and advance their skills to be successful on the job.
“The industry is being driven by demographics,” King notes. “There are a lot of people who work in manufacturing in the Hudson Valley that are 60 years and older. Then, there’s a handful that are 30 years and younger, but we need a lot more. Apprenticeship and on-the-job training is the way to get the skills and knowledge of older workers into the brains of younger workers.”
Young people just graduating high school or looking to enter the trades can join one of the advanced manufacturing programs at SUNY Westchester Community College. The National Institute for Metalworking Certification Program provides students with knowledge of safety, measurement, job planning, benchwork, and layout. Students in the program can also learn how to operate computer numerical control machines (CNCs), which are used to make parts in the manufacturing process.
“One benefit of our programs is that they are both nationally recognized in the advanced manufacturing industry,” Irvine explains. “They also allow students to get hands-on applied knowledge in their area of interest.”
The community college also offers a Certified Production Technician course with the goal of advancing the skills of production technicians starting or furthering their careers. Grant funding is available for the program to those who qualify for Workforce Development Scholarships. The certification provides value to employers and enhances transferable manufacturing skills at a low cost.
“There are quite a few manufacturers in Westchester County, Putnam County, and certainly in the larger Hudson Valley area,” Irvine adds. “Some people who graduate from our program will work for local manufacturers while others will work for the county itself.”
Advanced manufacturing is an emerging career field in which people can work with 3D printing, sustainable energy, and even artificial intelligence. The advanced manufacturing programs offered in Westchester and the Hudson Valley allow people to gain the necessary skills and knowledge they need to be successful in the technology-driven jobs of the 21st century.
“If you have the aptitude and interest, manufacturing is a great career to go into,” King says. “It allows you to express yourself and earn a great living. I think there will be job security in this industry for a long time because the skills are easily transferable and you can take them anywhere.”