Capital Region BOCES students to put skills to work for employers (with 7 photos)

Nate Bartlett, a BOCES commercial construction/heavy equipment student, shakes hands with New York state Labor Commissioner Roberta Reardon on Thursday.

Nate Bartlett, a BOCES commercial construction/heavy equipment student, shakes hands with New York state Labor Commissioner Roberta Reardon on Thursday.

COLONIE A group of BOCES students have jobs waiting for them after they graduate in a few weeks.

The educational support organization for 24 Capital Region school districts held its first-ever signing day on Thursday, during which students signed letters accepting job offers, apprenticeships and advanced training courses with area employers.

It was not unlike the ceremonies at which high school athletes commit to play and study at a certain college. 

“Pursuing your career now is as important as going to a four-year college or playing a sport,” Capital Region BOCES Senior Executive Officer Joseph P. Dragone said.

One after another, speakers at the ceremony praised the vocational training programs that are producing new employees for skilled trades whose workforces are inadequate and at risk of further shrinkage as workers age.

[ngg src=”galleries” ids=”82″ display=”basic_imagebrowser”]They congratulated the students as well.

Jeff Palmer, BOCES director of career and technical education, said the signatures “not only will bring them personal success in a career of their choice but have them be a contributing, vital member to a workforce that’s desperate for their talent.”

“You’re creating a strong pipeline of workers,” state Labor Commissioner Roberta Reardon said. “Everywhere I go when I talk to employers they say, ‘I can’t find the skilled workers that I need.’ This is how you create that pipeline.”

The ceremonial event came a day after Capital Region BOCES held a career fair attended by 60 Capital Region businesses and unions, some of them suffering through a shortage of skilled labor.

Just last week, Gov. Kathy Hochul formally announced creation of the state Office of Strategic Workforce Development and allocation of $350 million to help address the workforce shortfalls that employers are complaining about.

Katie Newcombe, chief economic development officer for the Center for Economic Growth, said programs such as these boost economic development.

“When we’re working with these companies, we know that the availability of a skilled workforce is one of the top factors when they’re looking to expand somewhere or locate somewhere,” she said. “As a region, we can’t compete for investment, we can’t grow without you, without the work that you’re going to be doing.”

Before signing a letter of intent to work for the state Department of Transportation, Cobleskill-Richmondville senior Nate Bartlett spoke from the podium about the value of the vocational training programs he had been a part of, and how much he had enjoyed them.

Afterward, he said he won’t be going to college. Instead, he’ll go right to work for DOT in July, with a focus on road maintenance.

Bartlett’s previous job experience is three years as a tour guide at Howe Caverns. 

His new job entails a different skill set. 

“I’ve learned how to operate equipment, bulldozers, excavators, I’ve learned welding, I’ve learned how to construct a shed, build floors, walls, roofs, I learned how to drive a dump truck, as well,” he said.

Nazias Hunter of Schenectady, a 2021 graduate of Schenectady High School, will go to work for Ren Tool & Manufacturing Company of Schenectady, where he has been continually learning as an intern. 

“I went to Ren Tools in the beginning of January 2022, and I had no clue what I was doing,” he said. “Now in May 2022, I know how to run the machines.”

Both Ren and BOCES bear credit, Hunter said.

“It’s a really small business, so I got familiar with all the people. They showed me tips and tricks, they’re really nice people.”

As for his future plans? College is a goal, but not an immediate one.

Allison Umstadter of Scotia, who will graduate shortly from Scotia-Glenville High School, has been training at Greno Industries in Glenville and committed Thursday to becoming an employee.

“I’m going to be working there as a machinist,” she said, “either working in their mill or lathe departments, preferably lathes — I find them to be a lot more interesting.”

Umstadter said the job is a natural progression from her earlier interests. 

“I was always interested in industry since I was little. It kind of like varied over time — back then I wanted to be an engineer, now I want to be a machinist.”

She’s undecided about college. There will be a gap while she works as a machinist, but she doesn’t know what comes after that.

“I’m thinking about it,” she said.

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