Manufacturers like Tapecon are searching for more workers to hire and develop.
A workforce training program run by Goodwill of Western New York that is expanding should help Tapecon meet some of that need.
"What we're doing with Goodwill is mapping career pathways," said Steve Davis, the company's president. "They're seeing a career pathway in front of them and not just a job."
Goodwill's Goodskills Career Builder Initiative received a $3.6 million chunk of a $25 million federal Build Back Better grant awarded to Western New York to bolster manufacturing. Goodskills is a free, four-week program combining classroom training with on-site experiences to prepare candidates for manufacturing jobs.
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The funds will allow Goodwill to train an additional 750 people from underserved populations for advanced manufacturing jobs over the next three years, said Thomas Ulbrich, president and CEO of Goodwill of Western New York.
The jobs don't require a college degree but can lead to higher-paying careers. Goodskills also raises awareness about the opportunities, gets people familiar with manufacturing positions, and provides support services to help them stay employed, Ulbrich said.
"The initiative will have the dual benefit of helping to fill a growing need for skilled workers among businesses, and providing opportunities for people to advance from minimum wage or low-wage jobs to higher-paying careers," said Rep. Brian Higgins, D-Buffalo.
Sen. Charles Schumer said the $25 million grant will help the region train more than 1,600 workers for careers in manufacturing and tech by building a more diverse workforce, with a particular focus on providing opportunities to East Buffalo residents.
A program like Goodskills sits at the start of the workforce development pipeline, Ulbrich said. Some in the program may choose to go on to a place like Northland Workforce Training Center, while others may receive more training from an employer who hires them.
"We know we have to get people to work as fast as possible," Ulbrich said. "They need to have food on the table on Friday to be successful."
The new funding for Goodskills will go toward expenses such as hiring more employees and support services. Each participant will be assigned a career coach who provides support for three years after placement in a job, said Randi Murphy, vice president of workforce development and human resources for Goodwill of Western New York.
Goodskills was launched a year ago as pilot program funded by Empire State Development. About 100 people completed the program, 85% of whom were placed in jobs, Ulbrich said.
The program's focus is workforce readiness skills. Goodskills also covers topics like teamwork, communication, problem solving, and job interviewing skills.
"I think what a lot of employers are looking for are individuals with good attitude, aptitude and commitment to work," he said.
Goodskills is working with about 50 manufacturers, with an eye toward building deeper relationships with them.
"Manufacturers don't want one employee," Ulbrich said. "They would like to have a pipeline of employees, where they know they have people well trained and ready to be successful."
Tapecon's Davis said a program like Goodskills helps his company build "bench strength" of employees. "We're going to bring people into our organization, and now they're a candidate for the next step of on-the-job training."