Westchester Training Providers Teach In-Demand Skills

Westchester offers a wide assortment of educational and training pathways for students and job seekers looking to gain valuable skills needed in the workforce. Here’s an overview of several helpful countywide options.

Putnam/Northern Westchester BOCES

“Especially with the rising cost of college, we’re a great alternative for education and training,” says Stephen Lowery, director of Career and Technical Education at Putnam/Northern Westchester BOCES, or PNW BOCES. (The acronym BOCES is short for Boards of Cooperative Educational Services.)

Students at PNW BOCES participate in trainings for careers such as sports medicine and auto body repair. At SWBOCES, popular trainings include the electrical trades and welding.
Students at PNW BOCES participate in trainings for careers such as sports medicine and auto body repair. At SWBOCES, popular trainings include the electrical trades and welding. ©Sherry Bruck, Harquin.

Serving 18 school districts, PNW BOCES provides classroom studies and hands-on training, certificate programs and internships, plus continuing education, and GED and adult literacy classes. Students can focus on fields including architecture, engineering, hospitality, fashion design, law enforcement, special education, and dozens more.

One big draw: its electrical classes incorporating fundamentals of solar and wind technology, and intro training in electric vehicles. “Learning about EVs is a combo of our auto mechanics and electrical programs,” Lowery says. “First-year students learn how to fix mechanical things in the cars. In year two, they learn about the software and how EVs work in terms of the electrical component.”

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Lowery adds: “We’re also seeing a lot of students clamoring to get into HVAC, carpentry and the construction trades.” To help them prepare, PNW BOCES is partnering with local unions by inviting electricians, carpenters, bricklayers, steamfitters, and other tradespeople to meet with students, discuss their jobs, and possibly recruit future workers.


Healthcare offerings at PNW BOCES include nursing assistant and medical assistant certificate training The New Visions Health program provides students an opportunity to rotate through local hospitals to observe what doctors, nurses, and other staff do in a typical workday. And the recently launched New Visions Sports Medicine program explores that growing job specialty, plus related careers in physical therapy and occupational therapy. “These are all expanding fields, and we want to help students prepare for careers in them,” Lowery says.

student working with teacher
©Sherry Bruck, Harquin.

Southern Westchester BOCES

“We have about 750 students in 11th and 12th grades from 32 districts now attending,” says Dahlia Jackson, who heads secondary programs as director of the Southern Westchester BOCES (SWBOCES) Center for Career Services.

Among its approximately two dozen programs, students especially seek out electrical, HVAC, and construction training, Jackson notes. “Cosmetology is another popular course, and we’re also launching a barbering program,” as well as reintroducing the SWBOCES nursing assistant certification training.

Some classes feature work-based learning out in the community. Students in the automotive program, for instance, can train alongside employees in local car dealerships and repair shops. “Students really benefit, because it reinforces what’s being taught in the classroom,” Jackson says.

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SWBOCES also offers adult-oriented programs. Tracy Racicot, director of Adult & Community Services, explains: “We provide entry-level training for about 1,200 people annually who might not have had the opportunity to attend one of our high school programs.” In addition, about 2,000 students take ESL and adult literacy classes.

SWBOCES classes prep adult students in fields such as automotive, construction, technology, and healthcare. “One big plus is that our training is mostly in the evening, allowing people who work during the day to take part,” she notes. Consistently popular adult courses include HVAC and electrical classes. “And our CISCO computer networking program continues to have strong growth. It now includes elements of web-based cybersecurity, which is pretty cool; and that’s a rapidly growing field.”

SWBOCES also partners with the Westchester County Association to help job seekers hone skills through the Westchester County Healthcare Talent Pipeline Program. So far, more than 100 BOCES-trained students have been matched with employers in regional healthcare jobs.

Westchester-Putnam Career Center Network

With locations in White Plains, Carmel, Mount Vernon, Peekskill, and Yonkers, the Westchester-Putnam Career Center Network (WPCCN) is a key outreach source for many job seekers.

“The centers are staffed mostly by employees from Westchester and Putnam counties and the state Department of Labor, as well as from partner agencies,” says Sherry Bruck, Career Center operator, who coordinates functions throughout the WPCCN. “Last year alone, we served more than 13,500 people,” she adds.

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Focusing primarily on underserved residents, the centers offer free resources including training programs and career counseling for youth and adults, and an online local jobs board. The WPCCN also partners with Indeed.com to present webinars and workshops through the virtual Job Search Academy.

The Individual Training Account (ITA) Program is another WPCCN employment aid. Providing free career advice and job-skills support, it operates together with partners including BOCES and Westchester County. “These trainings are often in high-demand fields like HVAC or healthcare,” Bruck says. “They help people gain the skills needed to take their first steps toward getting a job and making a livable wage.”

The WPCCN also points many job seekers to the Northstar Digital Literacy Platform, which can be found at www.digitalliteracyassessment.org.

“Anyone can create a free account,” Bruck explains. “The platform will assess your current computer skill level and offer relevant online trainings. And if the trainings are proctored by a Career Center Network staff member, some participants can earn certificates to include on their resume.”

The WPCCN continues to ramp up its monthly schedule of virtual workshops that, in conjunction with the state Department of Labor, cover multiple aspects of job training. “And now, post-COVID, we’re beginning to re-launch more workshops and job fairs that people can attend in person,” Bruck adds.

Related: A Look Into Westchester County Government’s Hiring Push

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