Training Expert Employees with the SUNY Apprenticeship Program

Hear from James Willey and Matt Maloy, the coordinators of workforce development at MVCC. You’ll also hear from Cory Albrecht, the director of AIM, which is the regional Manufacturing Extension Partnership (MEP) center for the Mohawk Valley. Each of these resources will share insights about apprenticeships that can help NYS manufacturers find workforce talent. Career seekers can also learn about valuable opportunities through apprenticeship programs.


Steve Melito: Hey, welcome to New York State Manufacturing Now, the podcast that’s powered by FuzeHub. I’m your host, Steve Melito. You might not have known this, but National Apprenticeships Week is coming up, and it’s probably no secret that manufacturing has some workforce challenges. But what we don’t want to keep secret is that help is available. So today we’re going to be talking to the MBCC Advanced Manufacturing Team. You’re going to hear from Cory Albrecht, who’s a director of the Advanced Manufacturing Center, or AIM, which is the MEP Center for the Mohawk Valley. And we’ll also talk to James Willey and Matt Malloy, who are the coordinators for workforce development for the SUNY Apprenticeship Program. Gentlemen, welcome.

Matt Malloy: Thank you, Steve.

James Willey: Thanks, Steve.

Steve Melito: Great. Listen, Matt, we’re going to start with you. What the heck is a New York State registered apprenticeship?

Matt Malloy: Well, a New York State registered apprenticeship is overseen by the New York State Department of Labor, and it combines on- the- job training with classroom training to train workers to become skilled in a particular trade. Apprentices are full- time paid employees, who produce high quality work while they learn skills and enhance their employment prospects. They’re paid on a graduated scale. This ensures that salary reflects the degree of skill achieved. Another thing to note is apprenticeships are not gender specific. We’ve seen a big increase in women enrolling in and finishing apprenticeship programs.

Steve Melito: All right. Good stuff. Let’s take a little step back here. I know I’ve talked about some acronyms. What is the SUNY Apprenticeship Program, and what is its relationship to MVCC or Mohawk Valley Community College? James, how would you answer that One?

James Willey: Great question, Steve. Well, no. The SUNY Apprenticeship Program, it started back in 2018, and it’s a grant that we received. By we, I mean Mohawk Valley Community College. It was developed by SUNY in partnership with New York State Department of Labor and the US Department of Labor. The focus is to engage small, medium, and large employers in New York to secure paid, registered apprenticeships in high- skilled, high- demand, and competitive wage occupations in advanced manufacturing. That’s our primary focus. It’s also in healthcare IT cybersecurity, and then any other trades, outside of the construction trades. A lot of the construction trades, they’re doing well the way they are. So the Department of Labor wanted to basically boost these other sectors in New York State. Our program funds the schooling portion of an apprenticeship, including textbooks, tuition, any fees associated with the apprentice taking courses at a SUNY institute. Our funds cover other areas, but I think for our manufacturers, this is probably the most important detail, for any employer looking to start or continuing apprenticeship program.

Steve Melito: Really good stuff. At the top of the podcast, I mentioned that James and Matt, you’re coordinators of workforce development for the SUNY apprenticeship program. James, what is your role?

James Willey: With the SUNY Apprenticeship Program, we do have many different roles, but our primary goal and our primary target is to increase registered apprenticeships in the entire state of New York in manufacturing, as I said, IT and healthcare, and in the other circuits outside the construction industry. We have made greater relationships with our SUNY colleges across the state to help everybody increase their registered apprenticeship programs in their region. No matter if you’re in Buffalo, Binghamton, the Mohawk Bay region, the Capital District, Long Island or North Country, we want to work with that local SUNY college to help cover the costs of that apprentice taking courses and going to trainings.

Matt Malloy: One thing I wanted to add, Steve, about that was one thing that our role is not is a staffing agency. A lot of companies think that we have a pool of qualified applicants, ready to go to work. We’re more involved with training applicants to become skilled employees. We don’t really have a pool of applicants ready to go to work. We do work with instructors at the college, though, because the college wants to train people to get to work. We want to see people get jobs in their chosen field. Our instructors can work with employers as well to identify great candidates. They’ll say, ” This is an outstanding student. This is their chosen field.” In fact, we have a local company that needed a welder. So we picked from the welding class, picked out one of the top students, and they went to work here locally as t hey became a welding apprentice as well, and that worked out great.

Steve Melito: That’s great, Matt. I think that helps to have that example in there like that. Good stuff. And James, so here’s, I think, really the million- dollar question if you’re a manufacturer that’s listening, is how does a manufacturer access the resources that are available? What do you have to do?

James Willey: That is definitely a great question because obviously, we have the funds, and we want to help our manufacturers across the state access those funds. In order to keep it simple, it’s actually a pretty simple process for an employer. In order to access the funds, first, that manufacturer, they have to have an apprenticeship program, and apprentices actively going or soon to start going to that local SUNY college for the related instruction portion of the apprenticeship. That’s the first step. The company has apprentices, and they want to train those apprentices. At that point, that’s when the college takes over. The college then contacts us, the Mohawk Valley Apprenticeship Team for the SUNY Apprenticeship Program, and they submit an application for funding for those apprentices. We always ask the college actually to never invoice the employer nor the apprentice. This is an internal process, SUNY process, that we have, and we work directly with the college to pay those tuitions, the fees, and the textbooks. Therefore, the company doesn’t have to pay anything upfront or get reimbursed for any of the trainings. They just have to worry about sending their apprentices for related instruction at the local SUNY College.

Steve Melito: Now, James, every successful program has some partners. Who are the apprenticeship partners that everybody should know about?

James Willey: There’s the employer. Without the employer, none of this process could happen. But the biggest partner in this is the New York State Department of Labor. They have the Office of Apprenticeship that helps the employers with this apprenticeship process. Then you have the educators, so that’s the related instruction providers, such as the SUNY colleges, that provide that related instruction, those trainings, for those apprentices and then there are group sponsors. We have group sponsors such as the Manufacturers Association of Central New York, or short for MACNY. I think a lot of people know him as MACNY. There’s RTMA, which they’re the Rochester Technology and Manufacturer Association. There’s another group sponsor, CEG, the Center for Economic Growth out in Capital Region. Also there’s another one, the Council of Industry. They’re out near the Hudson Valley region. But there are also other organizations that come into play, and they add additional funding. It depends on where you are in the state and how they qualify for it.

Steve Melito: James, I know from talking to Cory and others that there have been success stories with companies that probably have names a lot of people have heard of. But what if you’re a company that’s maybe too small, or you don’t think you have the time to manage an apprenticeship program? What do you do?

James Willey: The first thing I want to add is that the Department of Labor process, from what I’ve seen, is it’s an easy process. If a company’s too small, or they’re having trouble with that, they can always refer to one of the group sponsors. The MACNY or the Manufacturers Association of Central New York, RTMA, the Rochester Technology and Manufacturer Association, and CEG, and then the Council of Industry are group sponsors that can help manage your apprenticeship program. This goes to helping the employer with paperwork with the New York State Department of Labor, helping apprentices find and enter trainings or courses at their local SUNY college, helping with the documentation throughout the apprenticeship process, and many other benefits. Their goal is to help your organization succeed in the apprenticeship program. So please let us know if an employer needs any help, and we can help you get that contact, because obviously, every employer would have a different contact, depending on where they are in the state.

Steve Melito: So Matt, we keep talking about programs. How many programs are available, and how would you describe some of them?

Matt Malloy: As James alluded to a little earlier, there’s hundreds of programs through SUNY Partnership Program and the New York State Department of Labor. Most of them are in construction trades, which we do not fund. Most of those are overseen by the unions. But we mostly specialize in the advanced manufacturing, healthcare, IT, and other, which other can be anything categorized as not construction. In the healthcare field specifically, Direct Support Professional is a big one. In advanced manufacturing, there’s a lot of different titles for manufacturing: electromechanical technician, plant maintenance mechanic, plant maintenance electrician, CNC, machinist, welder, pretty much anything that would… Any kind of trade that would be involved with the manufacturing industry. Steve, we’re going to provide you with a link to the New York State Department of Labor’s website, and maybe you can share that with your listeners. Through this link, the employers can go and search available trades, see if anything fits their needs. And the New York State Department of Labor can also write a specific trade. If there’s one that doesn’t exist, a company feels there’s a need for one, Department of Labor will work with you to develop that trade. Some of these trades are as little as one year, and some go as long as five years and everywhere in between, as far as length.

Steve Melito: Great. Matt. We’d be happy to share that link with everyone. At the end, I’ll explain how to get in touch with us and how to get more information. But right now, I have a question for both of you, and Matt, we’ll start with you. What are the benefits for a company to have an apprentice? Why do you want to go this route?

Matt Malloy: Well, probably the biggest benefit is the experience, to capture and harness the experience of a worker that has maybe been in the industry for 30 or 40 years and are starting to look at retirement, starting to look at the next stage of their life, getting away from manufacturing, bringing new workers in and teaching them the ropes, showing them the day- to- day tasks of these trades and how to efficiently run the company. If these aren’t passed on from one generation to the next, they may get lost. Where’s our manufacturing going to go if we don’t have the next generation of workers to fill these gaps? What we do in order to try to fill these gaps is right now we’re offering grant money. There’s up to $5, 000 per apprentice for the educational portion. The related instruction pieces are covered, and then the job training would take place at the manufacturer, learning from experienced, seasoned professionals and passing that knowledge down. There’s also tax credits from the New York State Department of Labor, and this is based on longevity. There’s tax credits for each year. The longer an apprentice stays in the program, the more tax incentives add up from year to year. There’s an apprenticeship expansion grant, which this grant, in addition to our grant, which covers tuition, fees, and books, this grant can also cover those, but they can also cover the cost of tools or uniforms or other materials that are needed in the trade and all of these incentives can be combined. With the senior apprenticeship program, apprenticeship expansion grant, these can be stacked upon each other, and all these fundings can be used. Aside from financial benefits would be training someone to become a highly- skilled worker and carry on the knowledge. I just want to give you a quick example, Steve. One local company that we work with in Utica had a position where the guy would put silver solder on a hydraulic piston, and this would cover the pistons and make it so it rides smooth in the ram. He knew his job well. He’d been doing it for 30 plus years, didn’t take much time off. When the time came, he was a little bit older, he had to take a week off for health reasons. They had someone step in to cover this position. Well, the silver solder wasn’t coming out right. It was actually flaking off of the piston. They tried to figure out what was going wrong with the process, and they had somebody else come in and try to fix it. They had several people working on this problem. For the entire week, they had trouble with this procedure. When the guy finally came back, and he went right back to his job, and he said, ” There’s something wrong. There’s something wrong with the machine. There’s something wrong with the silver solder.” Well, he ran some parts. There was nothing wrong. He had a knack for it. He had the touch. He’d been doing it for so long, he knew the process. Now, if this guy had left for longer than a week, now what are you going to do? We want to capture that knowledge, capture this guy’s finesse, capture his abilities, and pass that on, so this job isn’t lost entirely. I think James, you had a similar experience with another company, right?

James Willey: Yeah. Aside from the benefits that we just mentioned for the company, another benefit – it’s definitely a huge benefit – is the increased efficiency and productivity that happens with an apprenticeship program. We are currently working with a company out near the Capital Region. Basically, they had the food processing company, and the scenario they brought up to us is they had one of the lines goes down food processing. There could be thousands and thousands of dollars that are lost, based on how many hours that machine is shut down. The scenario that was brought to us is they would have a person come check it out, try to troubleshoot the machine. That person would say, “It’s a mechanical issue.” So then the mechanic would come in. They would check the machine, and they would say, ” Oh, this is an electrical issue.”At that point, hours and hours could have gone by, the line would’ve been down. So what this company did is they said, ” Let’s combine, let’s make an apprenticeship program that combines both. We want somebody that goes into that machine and can either troubleshoot it – it’s a mechanical or an electrical issue.”So they actually started the electromechanical technician apprenticeship. Basically, what they wanted to do is that one person to check that machine out, troubleshoot it, and be the first person to either fix it or know what’s wrong with it. So then a lot less hours are, and I’m not going to say wasted, but less hours the machine is down, which is a lot of money that can be lost for a company. It just increases the efficiency in how the company works as well. They’re currently in their second year of their apprenticeship program. They’ve had mechanical classes. They’ve had some trade math courses. They just finished actually an electrical program they went through. They’re combining these courses and applying what they learned with their daily tasks. We’ve seen that increased efficiency in productivity in that company. And then also what’s one thing that’s… The atmosphere is a little bit different between the employees. Those employees actually have z common language to talk about. They’re all in the same class. What the company has told us is that you can see, you can hear the apprentices talking back and forth between each other through the radio. So the communication has also increased between their employees. There’s a lot of benefits, obviously, for a business to go through an apprenticeship program, from the financial aspect to actually gain skilled workers. But they can also change the atmosphere in the way that the company works as well in a more efficient manner.

Steve Melito: Really good stories and good examples. There are clearly benefits to the company to have an apprentice. But what are the benefits for the employee that goes through an apprenticeship program? Matt, what do they get out of it?

Matt Malloy: Well, they’re getting hands- on training, and they’re getting an educational training, which I don’t want to down… We’re an educational institution, so I don’t, by any means, want to downplay formal education. It’s super important. But there’s nothing that can replace hands- on training. If we’re working side by side with an experienced individual, you’re handing each other wrenches, you’re explaining what the process is while you’re doing it. We found that’s a time- tested tradition that’s just non- replaceable. To work side by side with somebody and get the real- world experiences is invaluable to these apprentices. Not only that, there’s little to no student debt upon completion, because these courses are a hundred percent covered, the books are covered, the fees are covered. They’re getting the related education at little to no cost at the end. They’re getting paid as they work and learn, as opposed to a student that may go to school upfront, have a lot of student debt, student loans costs, traveling back and forth to school, and then to try to apply and find a job, and try to repay those debts. They’re working while they’re learning. They’re earning a good wage, receiving real- world experience and broadening their skillset by training with industry leaders and another nice benefit is they can earn a certificate and/ or a college degree that is transferrable and recognized across the US. These credentials and these credits that the students earn through SUNY community colleges are stackable. What that means is these credits can be applied towards New York State registered apprenticeship programs. Those classes can then also be stacked and applied towards certificates or degrees in their chosen field, which is a nice notch on your belt to have.

Steve Melito: To be able to learn and earn at the same time, that’s a great thing. Speaking of the money piece, James, are there costs associated with the apprenticeship for the employer?

James Willey: Great question. There is no cost for the employer to sign on for the apprenticeship program. Basically, there’s no cost for that registration process. There’s also no cost for the technical assistance that the New York State Department of Labor or their representatives provide. They offer technical assistance for new program design. So there’s an occupation at your organization. There’s no trade available for that type of work. New York State Department of Labor representative can help write that trade with the company. We have seen many different trades made this past year in manufacturing, healthcare, and IT. So it’s definitely an expanding process. Completing and submitting the paperwork to become a registered sponsor of a trade, that’s another thing that they help you with at no cost. They can help you recruit workers, and there’s a spot on their website where potential apprentices can actually see what apprenticeship openings are available, so they can actually apply for those that way. And then, just any ongoing operations throughout the apprenticeship program that they’ll help you out. They have a great staff. They’ll definitely help you succeed in the apprenticeship program.

Steve Melito: And Matt, who decides the employee’s wage?

Matt Malloy: The wages are left up to the employer. The program is designed for the employer, and we want the employer to make those calls, so they get to decide the wages. There are a couple of requirements. One requirement is that it must be at least minimum wage, and throughout the duration of the apprenticeship program, there should be at least one wage increase. There can, of course, be more. Typically, we see per year, and those wage increments are a nice incentive for the apprentices that, as they’re learning, and they’re working, and they’re gaining skills, they’re rewarded for those increase in skillsets. They’re given a reason to keep chugging along and keep working towards that end goal of a apprenticeship card. At the end, they’re going to reach a journeyman wage, which is the ultimate goal, and to show that they have learned their skillset and are worth that higher wage.

Steve Melito: Great answer. You’ve been listening to James Willey and Matt Malloy, who are the coordinators of workforce development for the SUNY Apprenticeship Program. And then waiting patiently has been Cory Albrecht, who is the Director of the Advanced Manufacturing Center or AIM, which is the MEP center in the Mohawk Valley. Cory, I wanted to ask you, why is MBC interested in apprenticeships? And why is the program a good fit for the college?

Cory Albrecht: Thanks, Steve. That’s a great question. Thanks for including me on this. I just want to start off by saying a special thank you to both Paige and you. You guys did a great job, and you’re always connecting with Mohawk Valley Community College. Thanks for the good work you guys do across the state. To answer your question, Steve, I’m going to start with really a short answer, and then I’ll give you more of a background on it. But here at MVCC, we have a vision statement of transforming lives through learning. And that statement holds true every day for what all of us do here at Mohawk Valley Community College. Transforming lives through learning and education is what we do on both of our campuses on a daily basis, our campus in Utica and then our campus in Rome, New York. This apprenticeship program is an opportunity for us to transform community lives through education, to transform employer and staff lives through education and learning. The vision statement’s very important, and if it fits in our vision statement, it’s something that we’re willing, as an organization, to take a look at. I’d also like to bring you back in time a little bit here. Mohawk Valley Community College was established in 1946. Back in 1946, it was established, and it has evolved over time to become New York State’s first community college, which is pretty cool. We all like to talk about that as well. Then fast- forwarding from ’46 a little bit, in the early fifties, the early name was actually Mohawk Valley Technical Institute. Technology, technical training, development, workforce has been in our blood from day one. Moving further from that, when the college was established, originally, it was founded to provide education and technical training to World War II veterans. As they were returning from the second World War, here in upstate New York, in the Mohawk Valley, we felt like it was an opportunity and a necessity for us to provide the technical skills and training to the GIs returning from the war. That’s a little background on the technical standpoint that the college has had from day one. I would also add that currently, we have a very robust community education and workforce development department. As I sit here today as the Director of AIM, I’m one of 22 individuals that work within community education and workforce development here at MVCC. We have a robust system. We have a lot of programs. We have highly- recognized programs in electrical machining and mechanical welding and also cybersecurity and drones. As you see, it’s in our nature, it’s in our wheelhouse. When we had the opportunity in 2018 to apply and take the award of this grant, as the administrators of the SUNY Apprenticeship Program, as you can see, it was a natural fit for us and something that we didn’t have to think very hard on.

Steve Melito: That’s great. I really enjoyed hearing about the history, and it’s a commitment to workforce that’s obviously very deep. How does the SUNY Apprenticeship Program integrate with the Manufacturing Extension Partnership center or network?

Cory Albrecht: As you mentioned, Steve, AIM is the Advanced Institute for Manufacturing. We’re one of 11 MEP or Manufacturing Extension Partnership centers across the state. FuzeHub is one of our sister centers across the state. For us locally here, it’s a tool in our toolbox. It’s another tool in our toolbox. It’s a resource, it’s a program, it’s an opportunity for funding for our more than 500 small- mid- size manufacturers that we have here in the Mohawk Valley region. It’s an opportunity to make an impact with these employers and, hopefully, have a tremendous impact on their manufacturing organization. Locally, because in 2016, MVCC was awarded the MEP Center, it was a natural fit for us, and we integrated under the AIM umbrella. On a statewide level, Steve, I feel like this is a perfect opportunity. Might be the best opportunity for the 11 New York State MEP centers, operating under the New York Manufacturing Extension Partnership Network, an opportunity for them to, on a statewide level, connect with the SUNY colleges. As James and Matt in depth spoke about, this is a statewide program. It includes not only community colleges, but the four- year SUNY campuses and colleges as well. This is a perfect opportunity, again, to combine the New York State MEP network, combined with the SUNY colleges and, most importantly, the employers that we have across the state of New York. As you know, we have about 16,000 manufacturers in the state of New York. What better way to bring a partnership to these employers across the state? That’s why we feel like, both on a local level and a state level, the apprenticeship programs integrate well into MEP.

Steve Melito: Excellent. Cory, one last question for you. Are apprenticeships a good workforce development model for manufacturers?

Cory Albrecht: Well, short answer, absolutely, Steve. It’s a model that’s been proven for generations. We’re excited and happy to have this model back here today currently. I remember reading 2018, the National Association for Manufacturers, also known as NAM, surveyed tens of thousands of manufacturers across the entire US. And the question was pretty simple. It was, what’s your number one business concern? We may think it’s things like foreign competition, or we’d like to increase our exports, or supply chain management, or we need to save money and be more efficient, or things like that. The number one business concern, and it was number one by a long shot, I believe it was like 70% of the responding organization said that their number one business concern was how to attract and retain a highly- skilled workforce. That’s the number one business concern in the United States right now, again, according to that National Association of Manufacturers survey. I definitely think that it’s a model for manufacturers. Apprenticeship is a great model for workforce development. Personally, I can tell you a little bit of my experience that I’ve been having when I go and visit the manufacturers here in the Mohawk Valley. When I used to go in and speak with companies, they would say things like, ” My number one concern, again, it’s process improvement,” or ” We need to save money,” or ” We need to be more efficient,” or “I need to establish my vendor network or my supply chain network.”Most companies that we go into today, and I believe James and Matt would agree as well, everyone’s mentioning workforce. Everyone’s mentioning the need for a highly- skilled, well- trained employee base. I would also say that I don’t think that apprenticeships are the only answer. I don’t think it’s the only solution. I think it’s a great solution. I think currently, Steve, it might be the best solution. But formal training, formal employee training, and your traditional recruitment efforts, they still work. It takes a lot of time, it takes a lot of commitment, and it’s becoming increasingly more difficult.
But the question is, is it a good model for workforce development? And absolutely, it’s the number one need for companies across the country today. This program that we have and the funding that we have through the SUNY Apprenticeship Programs, it can make a tremendous difference.

Steve Melito: Excellent. Cory, I think you’ve convinced a lot of folks today, along with James and Matt as well. On behalf of FuzeHub, I’d like to thank the MVCC Advanced Manufacturing Team for taking the time to explain to us what they do and how they can help you. The New York state manufacturer who was out there and listening, if you’d like more information, if you want to talk to Cory, James, or Matt, aren’t sure how to get ahold of them, you can always reach them through FuzeHub. The way to do so is to go to, look for the solutions program menu. You’re going to ask to have a expert manufacturing consultation. You and I will probably have a chat. And then from there, I will get you where you need to go. And it will be a pleasure to have you talk to the MVCC Advanced Manufacturing Team because as you heard today, they’re very committed to manufacturing success. On behalf of New York State Manufacturing Now, the podcast that’s powered by FuzeHub, this is Steve Melito signing off.

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