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Manufacturing council eyes retraining curriculum for skilled jobs

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Nationwide, manufacturers say that there is a gap between available jobs and the skills job seekers needed to fill those jobs — a recent report by Deloitte LLP and the Manufacturing Institute contends that as many as 600,000 skilled production and production support jobs are going unfilled.

Circumstances are no different in Jefferson and Lewis Counties, according to David J. Zembiec, deputy director of the Jefferson County Industrial Development Agency.

To remedy the situation, the JCIDA’s Manufacturing Council is planning to start an adult education course this fall to close the skills gap reported by local businesses.

The program will be geared toward training individuals for jobs that require more than a high school diploma but less than an associate degree, Mr. Zembiec said.

Companies are not only looking for basic skills such as welding but also for problem-solving skills and the ability to think conceptually.

The program, which will take students about four months to complete, will involve classes two to three times per week, Mr. Zembiec said.

The idea was developed through a partnership between manufacturing, education, workforce development and economic development officials, and its pilot run is taking place with the aid of donated materials from local manufacturers.

However, without additional help, the program will not be sustainable, Mr. Zembiec said.

To put the program on a more stable footing, its creators are applying to the North County Economic Development Council for additional funding. The goal is to run the program through the Jefferson-Lewis Board of Cooperative Educational Services with a permanently assigned instructor.

For now, the JCIDA has to find space to hold the pilot program, which it hopes to begin in the fall. It is currently seeking a location from BOCES or from a local manufacturer.

If the agency receives a grant from the economic development council, it will use the experiences from the test run to help structure a more formalized program, Mr. Zembiec said.

The goal of the program is three-fold, according to Mr. Zembiec:

n To serve those who want to improve their career prospects.

n To help manufacturers remain competitive and grow by making sure they have the workforce they need.

n To encourage entrepreneurial enterprises.

At its Friday meeting, members of the Manufacturing Council also discussed the prospect of putting together a video aimed at changing preconceived notions about manufacturing held by middle school and high school students as well as their parents and guidance counselors.

M. Lynn Brown, general manager of WPBS-DT, Watertown’s public broadcasting station, was on hand along with two members of her staff to discuss ideas for the video.

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