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Finishing Trades Institute opens state-of-the-art training wing

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Avery Schneider
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WBFO News

Hands-on opportunities await future skilled trade workers at a state-of-the-art facility in Cheektowaga.

The Finishing Trades Institute of Western New York cut the ribbon on its new training wing Wednesday. Formerly a parking lot, the extension now offers students a strong alternative to college-based career paths, according to Business Manager Mark Stevens.

“Not everybody’s made for college. And when we’re talking to schools, and that’s some of the things we’re teaching is anybody that’s good with their hands and they’re willing to learn, we’ll teach them. Long as you come to work every day, we’ll teach you the trade. And it’s a great opportunity because there’s a good wage with benefits where you can provide for your family,” said Stevens.

Stevens says graduates of the school will start off averaging $30 per hour. For those new to the workforce, the school offers classes on understanding benefits, in addition to job-related training.

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Credit Avery Schneider / WBFO News
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WBFO News
Bridge Instructor, David Weitzel, guides a student in the use of a virtual welding trainer

That training revolves around real and virtual educational aids for bridge painting, glasswork, drywall finishing, and commercial painting. The key feature is a two-story bridge-like steel structure.

Bridge painter Audry Harrier has been has been in the industry since 2010, and says students will use the aids to gain on-the-job experience before they hit the workplace.

“They have an opportunity now to be able to set up the decking. They have an opportunity to actually blast the steel that we would be blasting out in the field. They have an opportunity to be able to paint the steel that we’re painting out in the field,” said Harrier.

She says the in-house training from instructors with decades of experience is sure to improve on-the-job safety, and make the learning experience easier for new students.

That new wave of students is bringing diversity to this specialized workforce, says Stevens.

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Mark Stevens talks about diversity in the new skilled trade workforce

“We’re seeing more and more women, which is great. It’s great to see the diversity that we have and you could see that we have a lot of minorities. But, again, they’re looking for opportunity. Whether you’re a male or a female, and whatever your color is, it doesn’t matter. We are looking for somebody that wants to work every day,” Stevens said.

Stevens calls the Institute a place for hope where people can get back on their feet. He says their graduates in the workforce are contributing to the revitalization of Western New York.

Avery began his broadcasting career as a disc jockey for WRUB, the University at Buffalo’s student-run radio station.