Business Intermediary Is Leading the Way with Apprenticeship Solutions for the ‘Silver Tsunami’

Posted By: Martha Ponge, Director of Apprenticeships, MACNY of Central New York on February 05, 2018

Ponge discusses MACNY’s collaboration with other associations, workforce boards and industry to lead the way in providing small- to medium-sized companies with an opportunity to fill their workforce pipelines by being a business intermediary for DOL Apprenticeships.

The Manufacturers Association of Central New York (MACNY) represents more than 300 manufacturers and business organizations across Central and Upstate New York. These small- to mid-sized companies have the same challenges as bigger companies — a rapidly retiring workforce. But unlike bigger companies, they don’t have the resources, time and money to start their own training program and address their workforce needs.

Business Intermediary Is Leading the Way with Apprenticeship Solutions for the Silver Tsunami

Here at MACNY, we offer a wide range of services to provide members with the tools, information, people and resources they need to compete in the global market. When the “silver tsunami” started hitting our member companies, we knew that we could help by aligning them with a registered apprenticeship program offered by the New York Department of Labor (DOL). MACNY became the sponsor and business intermediary for our participating organizations, making it possible for even the smallest company to participate in the program.

The New York legislature was key in helping us secure funding through the New York DOL, and we were able to handle all of the paperwork, administration and implementation that allows our MACNY consortium to be a part of something bigger — something that could make a difference.

When it came time to choosing apprenticeship programs that were aligned with the DOL, we knew from past experience that Tooling U-SME would be the best partner for our mission. Tooling U-SME had successfully partnered with community colleges and associations to implement DOL-registered apprenticeship programs around the country. MACNY partnered with Tooling U-SME to define the standards of apprenticeship for its program, and to deploy training and measurement tools to both develop and assess apprentices. Tooling U-SME facilitated multiple workshops with MACNY stakeholders and representative employers to finalize the knowledge and skill requirements of each occupation. Multi-year MACNY consortium training plans, which demonstrate skills apprentices should perform during their on-the-job learning experiences, were developed for seven occupations:

  • CNC Machinist
  • Electronics Technician
  • Maintenance Mechanic
  • Quality Assurance Auditor
  • Toolmaker
  • Welder
  • (coming in 2018 – Industrial Manufacturing Technician)

So here we are, just beginning our second year, and we have 30 MACNY manufacturing members employing 46 active apprenticeships, two partnering organizations across the state and two additional partners signing on in early 2018.

We are also collaborating with Jennifer McCullough from Working Solutions New York, a Workforce Investment Board (WIB) that serves as a connector between the U.S. DOL and American Job Centers. Working Solutions was awarded American Apprenticeship Initiative grants in Herkimer, Madison and Oneida counties, and turned to MACNY to provide the Tooling U-SME competency-based outline for apprenticeships in the seven aforementioned occupations.

These outlines take the New York standard and provide a clear roadmap of on-the-job training (OJT) by breaking down each trade into individual competencies. And if Jennifer receives requests for training outside the seven trades, she also turns to Tooling U-SME to build a customized competency-based apprenticeship for a specific company. It’s a win-win situation for everyone!

This collaboration has worked so well that Tooling U-SME was asked to design a pre-apprenticeship program for Working Solutions to provide companies that were not quite ready for a full apprenticeship with an alternative to begin their workforce education and fill their pipelines. MACNY is in discussions with leadership to take that pre-apprenticeship program and implement it in the Syracuse Public School system in 2018.

The growth potential for filling the “silver tsunami” workforce pipeline was working. What we didn’t realize was that by providing incumbent middle-level workers with a pathway toward a better, more skilled position, we overlooked the void we were creating at the bottom. We never thought there would be a problem filling entry-level positions, but we had created a new challenge.

Undeterred, we decided to run a pilot program, with the help of Onondaga Community College, to enlist entry-level employees by creating a job fair for manufacturers and potential employees. Using the proven apprenticeship model developed by Vermont HITEC, a non-profit workforce RA intermediary, we began by securing a list of entry-level positions, inviting potential candidates to see these positions, and facilitating conversations between the two. Each employer could document its conversation with a numbered potential employee, expediting the screening process. Five employers had 10 positions to fill. Candidates were asked which job they wanted, and nine out of 10 made a match. All 10 positions were filled.

Onondaga Community College provided the 10-week entry-level training with a blended program of Tooling U-SME online education and its own classes, with a “learning trailer” for initial OJT.

We were committed to participating in the Tooling U-SME apprenticeship program, and to having this program run statewide in five years. To do that, we began partnering with other business associations and providing them with our model for implementation of their own apprenticeship programs.

For example, knowing that metropolitan New York City did not have a manufacturers association, we started working with Miquela Craytor from the NYC Workforce Board called Small Business Services (SBS). We provided her with our pilot model based on the Vermont HITEC program, helping her create a framework from the Tooling U-SME modules so she could establish apprenticeships in the NYC area. It felt great being a sort of “mentor” to help others achieve their goals.

MACNY is part of a bigger organization called the Manufacturers Alliance of New York State, which brings smaller associations together for statewide economy of scale on issues such as working with the government, taxation, workers’ compensation, understanding new processes and grant funding. As a bigger voice, we can achieve more. As a group, we realized that not only did we need to raise up the middle skills for manufacturing, but that entry-level positions were in jeopardy. Collaborating to solve the problem gave us positive results and a pathway for expanding our growth.

To learn more about starting an apprenticeship program, download Tooling U-SME’s free white paper Apprenticeships: Modernizing a Proven Workforce Development Strategy.

Tags: "Business intermediary", collaboration, "competency-based apprenticeship solution", "consortium training plans", "Department of Labor (DOL)", "silver tsunami", "workforce education", "Workforce Investment Board (WIB)"