SCHENECTADY — Students who want a career in the arts have a new path to one.
Fulton-Montgomery Community College, Proctors and Capital Region BOCES on Tuesday announced a collaborative effort that will provide students with work experience, high school credits and optional college credits while preparing them for jobs in the creative economy.
FMCC President Dustin Swanger said the effort centers on his college’s new degree in entertainment technology, a multidisciplinary curriculum approved by the state two months ago.
Capital Region high-schoolers will gain hands-on experience with various entertainment industry technologies, first at the BOCES training center in Rotterdam, then at Proctors. They’ll earn to 15 credits that can be counted toward the associate degree at FMCC.
“We’ve been working with Proctors now for a couple of years,” Swanger said. There are more jobs available in the creative economy than qualified people to fill them, he said. “What a lot of people don’t realize is how extensive the arts economy is. There’s just a tremendous amount of opportunity.”
Proctors CEO Philip Morris said the downtown Schenectady performing arts center already runs a similar non-credit vocational educational program, and will continue to run it.
“Working with Schenectady High School for two years, we’ve run an after-school program aimed at employment,” he said. Some of those students have gone on to work for theater unions, he said, or for local companies.
Morris said the FMCC curriculum was developed after consultation with 10 of these companies about what they needed in workers.
For its own part, Proctors has a small corps of full-time technical employees, Morris said. But it hires perhaps 300 more per year on an as-needed basis through the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees.
He said the new program would be directly beneficial to Proctors in that regard. But it also would be indirectly beneficial, by boosting the entire creative economy.
The Schenectady High School after-school program is not a major expense, Morris said, running in the neighborhood of $100,000 a year.
Joseph Dragone, senior executive officer of Capital Region BOCES, said the collaboration with FMCC and Proctors will begin with 25 high school juniors getting training at BOCES’ Center for Advanced Technology on the Mohonasen campus. Those juniors will be working/learning at Proctors in their senior year, he said, and a new group of juniors will start at the tech center, bringing total enrollment to about 50.
“The program is already full for the fall,” Dragone said. “We have a similar program that we have been running that was not articulated with Proctors [or] with FMCC.”
Capital Region BOCES serves 24 school districts in Albany, Schenectady, Schoharie and southern Saratoga counties. As such, it will not directly overlap with FMCC’s heaviest enrollment zone — 80 percent of the college’s students are from Fulton and Montgomery counties, according to Swanger.
But he said many people from his area commute to the Albany-Schenectady area for work and many look to it for arts and media.
“I think Philip will be a conduit to a lot of the creative economy,” Swanger said.
Dragone said BOCES has 1,100 students this school year and requests from 1,300 to participate in 2019-2020. He believes the longstanding bias for high schoolers to pursue four-year college degrees instead of vocational training may be easing.
“It’s great to see the light come back on,” he said. “Beating that drum has been a disservice to kids that have skills and interests.”
All of the BOCES training programs — including welding, video game design, engineering technology and construction — have been developed in collaboration with industry, Dragone said, just as the entertainment technology program has been. Elements of the curriculum include digital photography, modern design, stagecraft, audio production, project management, digital TV/broadcast operations and and digital modeling.
FMCC’s presence in the collaboration is valuable for students who want to pursue a two-year degree directly aligned with their career goal, he added: “We are seeing tremendous opportunity for kids to have great careers and parallel that work with higher education.”
Also present at the announcement outside Proctors on Tuesday was Maureen Sager, executive director of the Upstate Alliance for the Creative Economy.
“The Capital Region is unusually strong in opportunities for full, part time and freelance employment in the creative industries,” she said in a news release. “From live theatre and recorded music to gaming and theme park design, we are experiencing a wave of business and investment that is propelling us to the ranks of the nation’s great creative regions.”