BATAVIA — Students in Genesee Valley BOCES’ new electro-mechanical program may want to go to college or directly into the workforce with an area manufacturing company. If they’re leaning toward the workforce when they graduate, they got a glimpse Tuesday of companies that are looking for young people like them.

Genesee County Economic Development Center (GCEDC) Vice President of Business & Workforce Development Chris Suozzi said local manufacturing companies are in desperate need of workers. The companies students met with include O-AT-KA Milk Products Cooperative, Inc. and HP Hood, both of Batavia; Liberty Pumps International in Bergen; Turnbull Heating & Air Conditioning of Batavia; and USG’s paper mill in Oakfield.

“This is a huge opportunity for our seniors and our businesses that are needing jobs to be filled. It’s a perfect marriage right here,” Suozzi said. “These businesses that are here today are part of our Premier Workforce Program. They’ve invested their money into our workforce programs. This is an event that’s held specifically for our Premier Workforce sponsors, where they’re able to take on these seniors and be able to recruit them into their manufacturing locations the minute they get out of high school.”

Suozzi said the students who join these companies will get on-the-job training and they’ll be able to have a great career path from within. “Once you get into all these companies and on the production floor, they’ve got opportunities in sales and marketing and finance and quality control and supply chain. Somebody can really grow and really have their career right here, locally, in Genesee County.”

Joseph Rebmann of Alexander, a student in the electro-mechanical program, said he wants to see whether it would be smarter to go to college or directly into the workforce — what the pros and cons of each are.

“I’m going more toward the workforce than college,” he said. “I’m not exactly sure what company yet, so I have to look around,” he said. “My cousin, he’s going to college next year at Alfred State. I’ll see what he thinks about that, but I’ll probably go into the workforce.”

Another student, Alexander Lynn of Caledonia, said he enjoyed his discussion with Turnbull Heating & Air Conditioning representatives.

“It was actually my first time speaking with Turnbull,” he said. Lynn said he plans to apply with Turnbull.

“It was helpful because it allows a kid as young as me to explore opportunities that are out there,” he said of Tuesday’s job fair.

Rich Monroe, Genesee Valley BOCES electro-mechanical trades instructor, talked about BOCES’ new electro-mechanical program.

“It’s a new twist on an old theory. We’ve been producing electricians and mechanical people through the building trades program for quite a few years now,” he said. “Due to the need from the industry — the manufacturing and food processing platforms here in the county, we need to try to bring some of these kids up-to-speed even sooner. We developed this program, it’s called electro-mechanical technician, which is going to gear toward manufacturing and food processing, and more industrial-commercial applications so that we can get these kids, maybe, better prepared to go to college or go directly into the workforce with apprenticeship training ...”

Monroe talked about the opportunity for BOCES to work on co-ops with the companies while the students are still in school.

“Instead of coming to school, one or two days a week, they would actually go to a job site and work and become assimilated with the manufacturing process, as well as getting some up-to-date, high-level skills in troubleshooting, dealing with pneumatics, dealing with mechanics and hydraulics, and also very deeply into the electrical program,” he said.

Business/Education Alliance (BEA) Director Karyn Winters said the BEA is branching out and finding new ways to connect with kids and the workforce.

“I work with K-12 youth. What better way to get these kids into the next stage of life — especially if they’re not college-bound, but maybe they’re looking to enter the workforce?” she said of the job fair. “We’re directly lining them up with employers who are looking to hire (young people) as soon as they turn 18 and as soon as they graduate. That’s a really awesome thing and that’s really the purpose of this event here today.”

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