FMCC looks at apprenticeship programs

Fulton-Montgomery Community College Director of Employment Services and Individualized Learning JeanMarie Reinke provided details on the apprenticeship program the college will offer in advanced manufacturing and healthcare through state grant funding to the Board of Trustees on Thursday. (The Leader-Herald/Ashley Onyon)

JOHNSTOWN — Fulton-Montgomery Community College is gearing up to offer new apprenticeship programs in advanced manufacturing and healthcare supported by state funding.

FMCC Director of Employment Services and Individualized Learning JeanMarie Reinke provided details on the apprenticeship program that will likely launch in the fall to the Board of Trustees on Thursday.

Reinke explained that the State University of New York has made $1 million available to community colleges statewide to offer apprenticeships in high need fields. SUNY has partnered with the state Department of Labor to support programs offering registered apprenticeships.

The paid apprenticeships will combine on the job training with classroom learning, offering students the chance to earn a college certificate while working in their desired field to learn new skills. Reinke noted that the SUNY funding opportunities are also available for non-credit bearing apprenticeships, but the college’s preference will be towards credited options.

Currently SUNY grant funds are available to offer apprenticeships in the fields of healthcare and advanced manufacturing. Locally the grant funds are held by Mohawk Valley Community College for manufacturing and Schenectady County Community College for healthcare.

To offer apprenticeships at FMCC with the grant funds, the college must request funds from MVCC and SCCC on behalf of employers interested in participating in the program and creating apprenticeships for new and incumbent workers.

Reinke noted that funds are allocated for student aid in related instruction, program marketing and informational industry roundtables.

FMCC will host its first industry roundtable in January for local advanced manufacturing employers of all sizes to go over program details and benefits as the college seeks out business partners to participate and provide apprenticeship opportunities.

Reinke noted that employers offering apprenticeships receive a tax credit while raising the skill levels of their employees.

The school will work with interested employers over the spring to determine needs and create plans to establish programs before apprenticeship opportunities are opened to students, most likely in the fall.

Apprentices will complete coursework at FMCC and work as paid apprentices for a specific employer. Some or all of the cost of tuition for apprentices will be covered by the SUNY grant. Students will be assigned a mentor at their site, usually a skilled worker in a higher position, who will track their progress and ensure they meet on the job requirements.

There are minimum standard hours and skills for registered apprentices that are tracked by the DOL. Employers are responsible for reporting this information to the state, but will receive assistance with related paperwork from the Center for Economic Growth in Albany.

“That got people a little more open to that,” Reinke said. “People have said to us that they were resistant — some local employers — to getting into these registered apprenticeships, because the paperwork was so daunting.”

Before apprenticeships commence, she will meet with students and employers to discuss the structure of the apprenticeship and the apprentice’s pay scale for over time.

“Their pay scale is going to go up,” Reinke said. “Over a three year period the salary could actually double.”

Reinke said she also plans to visit sites to ensure apprenticeships are working out for students and employers.

The length of time for an apprenticeship will vary by field, but Reinke said they will probably run for three to four years. Individuals with prior work experience may be given credit towards on the job hourly requirements.

FMCC President Dustin Swanger offered his support for the new apprenticeship opportunities, saying the program will appeal to employers looking for skilled workers while benefiting students.

“I think for many of our students it is really an advantage for them to be able to have a job in an area that they’re interested in while they are attending school,” Swanger said. “These are the kinds of programs students are looking for.”

Swanger said that the paid apprenticeships will benefit FMCC’s many students that already work while attending school.

“Almost 80 percent of our students work and need to work,” Swanger noted.

Swanger said that FMCC does not currently have an enrollment goal for the new program, but he hopes that it proves popular with students at the college and across the state to encourage SUNY to expand the program into additional fields.

“I hope that we’ll see success with this and SUNY will continue to fund new programs as we continue, because I think the funding helps spark interest and I think it helps the colleges prepare the curriculum and get ready for these programs,” Swanger said.

By Kerry Minor

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