Congressman Chris Jacobs no doubt spoke for millions of Americans when he expressed his appreciation for those men and women who possess the ability to work with their hands.
Jacobs was the keynote speaker this afternoon as economic development, business and educational leaders from the four-county area gathered together at the Genesee County Fairgrounds to promote the third annual GLOW With Your Hands career exploration event.
The career day is scheduled for Sept. 28 at the fairgrounds on East Main Street Road.
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About 700 students in grades 8-12 from 30 school districts and home school groups along with 40 vendors from different trades are expected to participate.
“Prior to being in elected office, I have a real estate development company – mostly in Erie County. But, I have no skills, myself, as far as trades, and my wife will attest to that,” Jacobs revealed, drawing a laugh from the 30 or so people in attendance.
“But, I’ve always enjoyed so much … working with the trades and I still do a little bit – projects – because I was always amazed by the skill sets they brought. Their ability to – I think someone said, problem-solve. That’s what they do every single day because every single project has different variations and challenges and factors, and they have to adopt.”
Jacobs said that the “level of skill and adaptability that I’ve seen in the trades is something that I’ve always had such admiration for, and that’s one reason I enjoyed so much being a real estate developer.”
With that in the backdrop, Jacobs said he will continue to work with Assemblyman Steven Hawley (who spoke after him) and state leaders to secure the funding necessary to keep GLOW With Your Hands going – and hopes that he will be able to attend the event on Sept. 28.
He said he was impressed with the inaugural event in 2019, noting that he took part in the nail hammering competition and tried his hand at welding.
“I have always thought … it’s giving children – I think it’s very important for our kids to see a future that lies ahead and opportunities that lie ahead …,” he said. “I also think that, and I know we have educators here, that the ability to understand application (and kids realizing that) ‘OK, that makes sense why I’m in class learning math because I need to measure things and it actually has a real world application.’”
The NY-27 representative commended the many partners in the GLOW (Genesee, Livingston, Orleans and Wyoming) region that “are doing so many things for this event, but also in charting the new path for the future of our region.”
“It cannot happen without a skilled workforce. So, this is critically important for the future of these children to be able to achieve what their dreams, aspirations and talents lie, but also that we cannot achieve our broader objective without them.”
Jacobs emphasized the importance of having local leaders determine the outcomes for their communities.
“Bring it down small, bring it down local to empower those on the ground to be able to do what they think is right,” he said. “That’s what we need in our federal policy, too, and clearly what you’re doing with federal resources – and I want to make sure we get more federal resources to you to continue to build upon this … that we go every year to make sure that we have more and more kids going into the trades.”
Chris Suozzi, vice president of workforce development, Genesee County Economic Development Center, and Jay Lazarony, executive director of the GLOW Workforce Development Board, are co-chairs of this year’s GLOW With Your Hands career fair.
Suozzi thanked Genesee Construction of Dansville as double platinum sponsor and LandPro as platinum sponsor, before commending the event’s executive committee and volunteers from the educational and business communities.
“Workforce development is a team effort,” he said. “We know that often the most important aspect of the region’s competitiveness is the quality of the workforce. And with an educated and skilled workforce that businesses can tap into to sustain their operations, the GLOW region will meet the needs of companies and communities.”
Suozzi said the area’s youth are talented, and need to learn about career exploration prior to graduating because it would be “too costly and too late” after that.
He noted that participants at the career day will experience first-hand activities associated with careers in agriculture, skilled trades like welding, bricklaying, electrical wiring, heavy equipment operation and “advance manufacturing that tie into our number one program that we just announced at the Genesee Valley Partnership (BOCES) in electromechanical.”
“(It’s) the number one program in New York State, and we’re excited about that,” he said.
Others involved in making the career fair happen, who spoke during the 30-minute presentation today, are as follows:
Karyn Winters, Genesee County Business/Education Alliance director:
“GLOW With Your Hands is providing students with great pathways to a strong network of programs to guide their growth. Businesses have been tremendously supportive of this mission and also provide great jobs.
“With the BEA, I get first-hand the excitement that kids have working with their hands. We just finished out summer career exploration camps this year, and with GLOW With Your Hands even more students will have the opportunity to see various construction trades that will be at this event.
“Trades and many companies offer apprenticeship programs that can result in workers acquiring highly sought-after skills. Live demonstrations and start the recruitment process for their next generation of workers.”
Molly Huangs, LandPro Equipment (John Deere distributor) marketing manager:
“It has been an amazing experience to see organizations from four counties work together in collaboration to promote career trades in our area. It is also truly been incredible to see so many companies offer support as well as investing financially.
“Being able to promote to our youth the incredible opportunities and careers available right here in our four-county region is critical to many businesses, including our own.
She said LandPro’s technicians’ career paths they have chosen allow them to “feel fulfillment at the end of every day.”
“That is the message that we as the GLOW With Your Hands career fair committee is working to get to our youth and their families. A career in trades offers our youth to work hard, learn, continue education and provide a lasting and lucrative career that can combine passion with success.”
Angela Grouse, Livingston County Chamber and Livingston Education Alliance director:
“Students with a wide array of interests and abilities will have the opportunity to explore today’s world of work. Hands-on interaction with over 40 vendors from agriculture, advanced manufacturing, skilled trades and food production industries will support students in discovering amazing career opportunities, featuring good pay, competitive benefits and upward mobility that exist right here in our own backyards.”
She said she hears from businesses daily on the challenges of finding qualified staff, as well as the talent pipeline and skills gaps, and the importance of workforce development.
“They are asking how they can connect and share opportunities, and develop the next generation of employees. The answer is right here at GLOW With Your Hands.”
Jay Lazarony, GLOW Workforce Development Board executive director:
He thanked the sponsors and the “army of volunteers that will ascend upon the fairgrounds in just four short weeks.”
“It is no secret that there is a strong demand among employers to replace retiring workers and in some instances, the need is immediate – especially businesses that require specific skills … It’s important to note that a significant portion of these jobs do not require a four-year college degree.
“Training provided by these companies in our region’s workforce and educational organizations can result in someone starting a great career soon after graduation. How many of you would have liked that advantage when you were just graduating from school?”
Assemblyman Steven Hawley:
Hawley mentioned that in 2019, Gov. Kathy Hochul, then New York’s lieutenant governor, participated in the GLOW With Your Hands event.
“I think we have a good partner in her, as well, to support these kinds of efforts,” he said.
Then, he brought up the abundance of employment opportunities around the state (as he did in a story on The Batavian on Sunday).
“We need folks to want to work again. We need them to have their hands on instead of their hands out. We want folks to be contributing members of this society that makes America what it was and hopefully will be again.”
Photo: Key contributors to the 2021 GLOW With Your Hands career exploration event are, from left, Jay Lazarony, Angela Grouse, Alexis Merle, Congressman Chris Jacobs, MaryEllyn Merle, Chris Suozzi, Assemblyman Steven Hawley, Karyn Winters, Molly Huangs. Photo by Mike Pettinella.