It’s Manufacturing Day Every Day

In this episode of NYS Manufacturing NOW, we unravel the intricate world of apprenticeship programs with our esteemed guest, Franca Armstrong, who’s at the helm of Apprenticeship Programs at Mohawk Valley Community College. If you’ve ever wondered how manufacturers can leverage apprenticeship programs or the perks of pre-apprenticeship programs, this episode will provide you with a comprehensive guide. Franca enlightens us about the SUNY Apprenticeship Program remarkably bypasses construction trades, opting to shine the spotlight on sectors like manufacturing and culinary instead. We get a look behind the curtain of the various apprenticeship programs available for eager students, and Franca unveils pre-apprenticeship programs currently in motion, including “Real Life Rosies” which aims to inspire more women to explore the manufacturing industry.


Steve Melito: Hey everybody, welcome to New York State Manufacturing Now, the podcast that’s powered by FuzeHub. I’m your host, Steve Melito. Today we’re talking to Franca Armstrong, executive Director of Apprenticeship Programs at Mohawk Valley Community College in Utica, new York. Mohawk Valley Community College, or MVCC, is part of the State University of New York or SUNY system, and MVCC plays a key role in workforce development and training through apprenticeships. Today we’re going to learn why that’s so important for New York State manufacturers. Franca Armstrong, welcome to New York State Manufacturing Now.

Franca Armstrong: Good morning, Steve. Thank you for having me, and we’re here today on, actually, national Manufacturing Day. What a great day to be on the podcast.

Steve Melito: It is. It’s Friday, October 6, 2023, national Manufacturing Day. There is no better time to talk about apprenticeship, so let’s start from the top. What is the SUNY apprenticeship program?

Franca Armstrong: Well, thank you. Yes, the SUNY apprenticeship program is actually a grant opportunity for apprenticeship programs to provide the related instruction up to $5,000 of related instruction at any SUNY school for an apprentice. So a company has access to new funds through the SUNY apprenticeship program. That didn’t exist before. We’re about a couple of years old now it’s been about three or four years.

Steve Melito: Well, that’s great. So my ears caught right away the $5,000, as I’m sure it did for our manufacturers who are listening. What are the benefits for the manufacturers specifically? What do they get out of this?

Franca Armstrong: Well, it’s a great program for the manufacturers to take advantage of. They can send their apprentice to a SUNY school. All of the related instruction is paid for through this grant. Typically Some of the four-year trades might go over that $5,000, but those two-year trades, three-year trades, 18-months trades, those are great trades because they can use a portion of that $5,000 for all of their related instruction. And when that apprentice is done with their related instruction they get their journey worker card. They still have credit to them, so they will have the remaining of the $5,000 that they can continue their education. So manufacturers are able to send people to school working towards a degree. Of course it could be a certificate, it could be a microcredential, it could be a degree, but they’re working toward it and no cost to the manufacturer, no cost to the apprentice. We pay for books, we pay for any of the fees. We really want to support the apprentices.

Steve Melito: Great and Franca, you mentioned the word trades, and when I hear trades, I think about plumbers and electricians. Does it cover that? Does it cover other trades?

Franca Armstrong: Well, unfortunately it does not cover construction trades. So our SUNY apprenticeship program was designed to increase apprenticeships in other industries other than construction. Construction does a great job with apprenticeship and they have a great system in place. They have been doing this for a long time and you’re right, when we think of trades, that’s who we think of, because they’re doing a great job already with it. So our job is to increase apprenticeships in other industries. So manufacturing, for one, we’re doing teacher assistant as a trade. We’re doing culinary, so doing cook as a trade. We have a lot of different trades that New York State DOL already has approved and we will work with manufacturers and work with other industries to develop new trades as well.

Steve Melito: Excellent. And how does a manufacturer get involved with apprenticeship? What do they have to do?

Franca Armstrong: Good question, Steve. So the first thing they should do is to work with either New York State Department of Labor and talk to them, or talk to a group sponsor so Manufacturers Association of Central New York, for instance, MacNe, is a group sponsor or they can go directly to New York State Department of Labor and work with them and set up their apprenticeship program. Either pathway is a great pathway for them to start.

Steve Melito: Good, so a couple of ways to get started. In addition to apprenticeships, there’s also something called pre-apprenticeships, and could you talk to us about the pre-apprenticeship programs that you’re running or have run in the past?

Franca Armstrong: Oh, yes, I love pre-apprenticeships. Pre-apprenticeships give us new opportunities that we really haven’t had in the past as well. So if you are a manufacturer that already has an apprenticeship program, we can provide up to $1,000 per person for a pre-apprenticeship program. And what that means is perhaps you want to offer a math class to a group of employees and then those couple people through and see who’s interested in going into your apprenticeship program. So we can do that. That’s one opportunity. Or a blueprint reading class or any kind of class that you would like to have as a manufacturer. The other opportunity that we’re doing with pre-apprenticeship is we’re doing classes to get people ready for apprenticeship. So teacher assistant, for instance, we’re offering a 30-hour pre-apprenticeship class to get people into teacher assistant trade. So that includes the SAVE class, the DASA class, the child abuse recognition class, those are all classes around teacher assistant, and then we’ll pay for the fingerprinting that’s required and we’ll get people ready to walk through the door and become a teacher assistant. So we’re doing a couple different things with that. We’re doing the same exact thing in manufacturing. So, for example, one that I’m so proud of and really love we’re working on a program called the Real Life Rosie’s and that program funded by Empire State Development to our partner MACNY. We’re working with them and we’re working with our workforce development board as well as DOL, to provide a pre-apprenticeship program for women and getting them interested in manufacturing. So we train women on what is it like to work in the manufacturing industry. We give them some life skills, we give them tours of manufacturers, we give them soft skills as well, getting them their resume ready and when they’re done with this 72-hour pre-apprenticeship program they can then interview manufacturers and we align the manufacturers up so that they can interview our candidates and our students. I should say and you know, hopefully they’ll get jobs in manufacturing, we can get more women in manufacturing. That is so important to the industry.

Steve Melito: Absolutely, and I’m guessing the word Rosies is a reference to Rosie the Riveter from-.

Franca Armstrong: Rosie the Riveter. That’s a good yes, very true, and we actually use an updated version of the Rosie the Riveter kind of pictures for our promotional pieces and we’re trying to really get women interested in manufacturing and thinking about that as a career.

Steve Melito: It’s such an important thing. We have such a labor shortage, and any manufacturer I talk to for a few sub is usually dealing with this issue. Not always, but usually. We need just need to leverage all that talent that we can get, don’t we?

Franca Armstrong: That’s well said. Absolutely Leverage that talent that’s out there, that they’re looking for more than a J-O-B. You know they would like a career as well, and manufacturing provides great careers with wonderful benefits, and it’s not the industry that once was, you know, in the 50s, where it may have been darker and dirtier. These are beautiful facilities now and great places to work, and women should consider this as an option.

Steve Melito: Absolutely yep, I mean there’s nothing wrong with other industries, but if you can get a job for 40 hours a week, Monday to Friday, some health insurance, why wouldn’t you take it? All right, great benefits, absolutely Good so you talked a little bit about the funding opportunities that are available for manufacturers. Is there anything else to add when it comes to pre-apprenticeships or even apprenticeships?

Franca Armstrong: You know. Let me add one more thing on pre-apprenticeships. The newest program that we’re offering and it kicks off on Monday, so the timing is really nice is something called Advanced to Apprenticeship, and this pre-apprenticeship program, very similar to the real-life Rosies, is providing individuals who may be on the spectrum and may have disabilities to learn more about manufacturing as well. So you know, those might be people who in the past just didn’t think about. You know the possibility of manufacturing as a career and we’re going to do the exact same thing do some exploration of the industry, teach them some skills. They will walk away with the OSHA 10 certification, they’ll get some soft skills, have their resume ready and then again be able to interview with our wonderful partners in the industry to hopefully get a job. So that’s just another pre-apprenticeship program that we’re doing, and I guess I also want to add that the real-life Rosies program, the Women in Manufacturing the true name is Women in Manufacturing, but we do call it the Real-life Rosies. It’s an everyday name for us, but that program is a direct entry program into apprenticeship. So that is the first direct entry program in manufacturing in New York State. So I’m so proud that that was able to occur and again our friends at New York State Department of Labor and MACNY. You know they did a great job in putting this together and making this happen. So again, the first direct entry program which means they can move right into apprenticeship from that, and the construction industry does a great job at direct entry programs. So we’re watching them closely. They do a wonderful job at it and we’re learning from them and we’re doing that with our Women in Manufacturing program and hope to do it with other ones. Our advanced to apprenticeship is another great model. Hopefully we can keep working towards more direct entry programs so that apprenticeship is just, runs off the tongue for people.

Steve Melito: That would be great, it really would be a wonderful thing. So, for companies that are listening and I know that they’re out there and they’re probably wondering well, Franca, can we talk to you about training and, if so, how do they get a hold of you? What’s the best way for them to go forward?

Franca Armstrong: Well, I would love to talk to them, absolutely! So the best way to move forward if you’d like to talk to me, send me an email. F-armstrong, FArmstrong, at MVCCedu again. F is in Franca Armstrong at and that’s a great place to start with me. We do have a SUNY Apprenticeship website and I welcome anyone to visit their website, and they can contact any of our community colleges across the state to talk to them about apprenticeships. So if they’re in a different region and they would like to talk, I can connect them, of course. So they can start with me or they can go on the website, either way.

Steve Melito: That’s beautiful, and before we go, would you like to give a little pitch for MVCC? I believe you’re an, that’s your alma mater.

Franca Armstrong: Oh, yes, it is, you are correct. Of course I’d love to give a pitch. MVCC started as a technical trade college at the very beginning, right after World War II, and so we’ve always maintained our roots in the trades and so we’re proud of that. And we are continuing that both through apprenticeship program and, of course, through our advanced institute for manufacturing. And our advanced institute for manufacturing is the local, regional MEP program. We cover six counties and we are there to try to help manufacturers with their efficiencies, their productivity, their training needs, you name it. We’re here to help our local manufacturers. So that program is definitely well run by Corey Albrecht and I commend him for all the work that he has done to grow it. And you know, we’ve been part of that MEP program for a while now and we’re so proud of the network, the work that we do with FuzeHub. Of course we can never thank FuzeHub enough for all of the great assistance that you provide us with and the great network that we have with the MEP system. So, thank you.

Steve Melito: You are most welcome and thank you for the kind words. It’s been a wonderful work we do as well. We look forward to continuing to go forward into the future.

Franca Armstrong: Yes, definitely so. Thank you so much for the opportunity and I hope people can reach out to me and talk apprenticeship. Let’s talk apprenticeship.

Steve Melito: I like it. Thank you, Franca.

Franca Armstrong: Thank you, Steve.

Steve Melito: So we’ve been talking to Franca Armstrong, Executive Director of Apprenticeship Programs at Mohawk Valley Community College in Utica, new York, and one of the reasons we’ve been having the discussion today is that it’s Manufacturing Day, Friday, October 6, 2023. But you know what? Manufacturing Month lasts all month long. If you’d like to get more information about the apprenticeship programs you’ve heard about today, you can email Franca, and you can always go to When you’re there, just click the Speak to an Expert button and then complete the short online form. A member of our Manufacturing Solutions program will then be in touch with you within the next business day. So, on behalf of FuzeHub and New York State Manufacturing now, this is Steve Melito signing off.

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