By Chris Suozzi
Accelerating as they hit the final stretch to cross the finish line, pairs of boxcar derby racers dipped their heads. It was one of many lessons I was pleased to share with youth aged 7 -13 gained through a Genesee Gateway Local Development Corporation-sponsored program.
70 racers and their families took up the challenge of building, designing, and perfecting their cars for a pair of fast-paced events – the August 26 BID Boxcar Derby in Batavia and the September 2 Labor Daze Boxcar Derby in Oakfield.
These events, and partners like the Batavia Business Improvement District and Oakfield Betterment Committee, create lifelong memories and demonstrate that through innovative workforce development programs, youth in Genesee County and surrounding communities develop through skill-building activities, career engagement, and training.
From Boxcar to Bootcamp
The pace of a boxcar derby matches the speed of our workforce development. We offer diverse tracks for our students, advancing them from pee-wee to pro levels, just like team sports. See below how our racers can progress with programs reaching every age and multiple ability levels.
- Ages 7 to 13 – Boxcar Derby
- Ages 8 to 11 – STEAM Jam, a GCC Tech Wars program for 3 rd to 5 th grade students
- Ages 12 to 15 – Camp Hard Hat, a weeklong building construction trades program.
- Ages 13 to 18 – GLOW With Your Hands: Manufacturing and GLOW With Your Hands : Healthcare, mass career exploration festivals with hands-on demonstrations; GCC Tech Wars, an extended STEM challenge program
- Ages 17 to 18 – Finger Lakes Youth Apprenticeships, employer-matched job shadowing and co-ops; GV BOCES training in mechatronics, welding, precision machining, and building trades; Cornell in High School food processing training program, a three-day accelerated food & beverage training program
- Ages 18 to 24 – Genesee Valley Pre-Apprenticeship Program, a six-week accelerated mechatronics training program
Committed to Workforce Solutions
As I recently told the Buffalo News, my sense of urgency is like no other. That’s why we’ve been in overdrive to solve the workforce demands of the future ahead of time.
The GCEDC works with our training providers, school engagement organizations, and educators to expand the capacity of training programs. We’ve seen real results – there’s been a 30% increase in BOCES training participation since 2019, events and programs in our community had over 3,000 participants last year, and we're on pace to welcome 1,000 students to GLOW With Your Hands: Manufacturing later this month.
We need to continue to overcome national challenges that start at home and school. It is crucial to empower parents, older siblings, friends and teachers to encourage pathways with no college debt. The outcomes for our recent pre-apprenticeship graduates, with immediate careers paying over $27/hour highlight the importance of these opportunities.
It’s a challenge that renews every school year. With over 700 high-quality careers coming with Plug Power and Edwards semiconductor at STAMP, and over 1,000 more at the Genesee Valley Agri-Business Park, the capacity for great local jobs is being met.
These are careers within reach.
Let’s all think and act like our boxcar racers.
We just have to stretch, to pull together, and I know we’ll win.