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Regional Council investing in manufacturing sector

Ashley Hassett

The Western New York Regional Economic Development Council says it will invest some of the 'Buffalo Billion' funds in the state budget into addressing the shortage of workers in the advanced manufacturing sector.

The council’s regional Co-Chair Howard Zemsky says the Regional Workforce Advancement Center initiative comes at a time when current manufacturing workers are reaching the age of retirement.

"We hear, time and time again, that we have critical shortages and will face more and more criticalshortages in the years ahead. Seventeen-thousand jobs will need to be filled in the advanced manufacturing sector between now and 2020," said Zemsky.

The plan will partner manufacturing organizations with Erie Community College and other vocational schools to create the training program.  The inititive will begin with a pilot training program, which will kick off within the next six months.

Buffalo Niagara Manufacturing Alliance Vice President Chris Sansone said funding will also go towards hiring a “skills broker” from the state’s Department of Labor who will help manufacturers find people specifically qualified for vacant high-skill positions.

"Our local manufacturers have identified six priority job categories for finding qualified candidates. Those six include CNC machinists, welders, inspectors, industrial mechanics, electricians, and electromechanical technicians. These six positions make up approximately 30 percent of the 17,000 jobs,” said Sansone.

Sansone said the average salary for those working in a manufacturing career is $45,000 per year.

Plans are already underway to find a location for the facility. Zemsky said the success of the pilot program will determine where they decide to build the brick and mortar training facility.