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August 25, 2022 - 4:17pm

Pre-apprenticeship 'boot camp' gives some muscle to job advancement

posted by Joanne Beck in news, BOCES, batavia, GCEDC, workforce development.

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Boot camp every weekday for the last six weeks has been worth it, Greg Burgess says.

Only, instead of a typical camp filled with burpees and jumping jacks, this one focused on future careers in food, beverage and advanced manufacturing and service technician sectors.

“I thought it was really good, I came for electrical,” he said Thursday morning after receiving his completion certificate at the BOCES campus in Batavia. “We learned to read prints and schematics — understanding schematics. It was really helpful, and good troubleshooting. I think that was the best part.”

Perhaps the next best part was that it didn’t cost Burgess a penny. This was a Genesee Valley pre-apprenticeship program that was designed to assist companies with recruitment and training. His employer, Georgia Pacific, sent Burgess to obtain additional skills that he will need for a job as a technician with his company’s maintenance department.

The 29-year-old is moving up the ladder, having been promoted once already. He is a testimony that high school drop-outs — he left Alexander High in 2011 — can go on to become successful in a field.

Advertisements for the program are one thing, Director of Workforce Development Richard Turner said, but “it's another thing when you've got proof positive that this education works, and that you got a start from here.”

“So you're our advertisement, here's the referral for what we're trying to get to get people. And the more and more we do this, more and more people are going to have confidence in us,” he said.

Burgess was one of seven graduates of the program. There were eight guys in the beginning, however, one had some personal issues and left the program, but with a job at Darien Lake, said longtime BOCES teacher Rich Monroe. He emphasized the large pool of jobs available for anyone with some trade skills.

“There's a vast amount of opportunity in advanced manufacturing and food processing, especially in Genesee County. We've got just a cornucopia of different opportunities here, and that's where this all kind of started with economic development, not having enough qualified people to do technical jobs,” he said. “So we started with this two years ago. And last year was our first attempt at doing what will be called boot camp. And it's really to try to address either incumbent workers that are trying to move a step up within the company, maybe they’re maintenance personnel, maybe they’re a production person, and they get the go-ahead from their boss to say, you know, we’d like to have you try this because we see something in you.”

The other situation is when students are recently graduated from school, or maybe they attempted college, and it really wasn't their thing, he said. This was a no-cost opportunity for them to explore something at no risk.

“All they had to do was show up for 96 hours, seven to 11 every day. And the other important thing is that we were there, and each one of them is partnered with a company. So it really is that academic experience, along with hands-on experience. Is this something you think you want to do? We're giving them every opportunity to explore it.”

The program trains students in a wide variety of mechatronic simulation settings to prepare them for in-demand careers throughout the region. Along with the in-class instruction, the students also received paid, on-the-job training and an opportunity for full-time employment with local employers.

The training was provided at no cost to the students and companies due to grants secured by Genesee Community College, Genesee Economic Development Council, and the Workforce Development Institute. Participating employers for the 2022 program include Arctic Refrigeration, Bonduelle, Darien Lake, Georgia Pacific, O-AT-KA Milk Products, Tambe Electric, and Upstate Niagara Cooperative.

The Genesee Valley Pre-Apprenticeship Program is primarily funded through the SUNY Reimagine Workforce Preparation Training Program and is supported by the Genesee Valley BOCES, Rochester Technology Manufacturers Association, Finger Lakes Youth Apprenticeship Program, GCC, Genesee County Economic Development Center, GLOW Workforce Development Board and Workforce Development Institute.

“Thanks to partnerships between our workforce training providers and employers, opportunities like the Genesee Valley Pre-Apprenticeship Program are creating a fast and successful path for more and more of our talented young people to join rewarding, growing careers in mechatronics,” added GCEDC Vice President of Business and Workforce Development, Chris Suozzi.

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Top photo: Erik Kesler, Joseph DePalma, Zaric Boyce, Joseph Abrams, Brayden Hickey and Greg Burgess; (Back Row) Rich Turner, Jay Lazarony (GLOW Works), Tish Williams (GCC), Bob Coyne (RTMA), Rich Monroe (Genesee Valley BOCES) and Chris Suozzi (GCEDC). Photo above: Graduate Brayden Hickey receives his diploma from Rich Turner as Bob Coyne waits in line to offer congratulations Thursday at Genesee Valley BOCES. Photos by Joanne Beck.

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