People used to say American manufacturing is dead. Those people are awfully quiet these days. In fact, according to Business Insider, for the first time in decades, the trend of relocating manufacturing offshore is starting to reverse, and SUNY schools have been paying attention.
In an effort to prepare for an influx of manufacturing jobs requiring highly-skilled workers, Governor Andrew M. Cuomo gave one initiative, (dubbed Retooling the Southern Tier) a green light this past June, in the form of a $15 million grant. The proposal was a collaborative effort between Alfred State, Broome Community College, Corning Community College, and Jamestown Community College to create expanded training programs in manufacturing in the Southern Tier.
“Alfred State has a history of supporting and working collaboratively with our sister colleges,” says John Williams, Alfred State’s Dean of the School of Architecture, Management, and Engineering. “As we reviewed the NYSUNY 2020 Challenge Grant Program, we saw a clear opportunity to capitalize on each institution’s strengths in manufacturing and create infrastructure that would support manufacturing. As a baccalaureate institution with our incredibly robust programs at the Wellsville campus, Alfred State was the natural leader for the grant.”
The new initiative is designed to help stimulate and grow the economy in the Southern Tier, with up to 300 students annually walking away from these programs as qualified candidates for new and expanded manufacturing jobs. The initiative is estimated to create an additional 2,340 jobs in the region by 2022, with an estimated 1,100 coming online within the first three years. “The Southern Tier is home to many large and small manufacturing companies. In fact, the region’s employment in manufacturing is two and a half times higher than the state average. While manufacturing jobs have declined, the impact is still huge and the projections for growth are increasing due to re-shoring and other trends,” John says. “Being prepared to support and host these new jobs will create benefits to the economy, infrastructure, and quality of life in the Southern Tier.”
Each college will take it’s share of the grant money and make vast improvements. Some campuses will create new facilities, others will develop training programs, and each will implement and expand academic programs while leveraging outside funds. At Alfred State alone, the program will provide funds for a new Sustainable Advanced Manufacturing Center (SAMC), where students will be trained in things like green manufacturing practices and nanosystem production. “We will build a $4.6 million facility and use $1 million to renovate existing infrastructure. This space will allow us to bring all programs together in one facility, provide new technology, and give us the opportunity to research and work collaboratively with industry. We will be able to train the next generation of workforce in this expanding field.”
The SAMC facility at Alfred State—which will be designed and constructed to minimize the energy typically used in manufacturing—will also serve as a prototype to assist manufacturers in developing new products and systems in a sustainable environment. It will capture and use any heat produced, minimize energy waste, and utilize natural lighting. The facility will also have high-end monitoring and automation systems to track, automate, and share information from the renewable energy systems. And true to its mission of hands-on learning, Alfred State will involve students from the Applied Technology Campus in the construction of the facility.
As part of Governor Cuomo’s NYSUNY 2020 Challenge Grant program launched in May 2011, the initiative will be a direct match and training program with local advanced manufacturing companies in the Southern Tier, including Corning Incorporated, SolEpoxy, Raymond Corporation, and ALSTOM Air Preheater. When all is said and done, the program is expected to expand manufacturing training programs by 50 percent. “This just takes what we already do very well and allows us to do it even better,” John says. “ We will be ahead of the trends and the curve. Our students will have an edge.”