Highlights Advanced Manufacturing

Growing Sector Offers Job Opportunities

By Victoria Detmering

Western New York has not always been recognized as the haven for flourishing and creative jobs; at least that is not the image you get when traveling through the beautiful Enchanted Mountain filled with scattered farms and livestock, with the quaint little off-road villages and the occasional industrial cities along the way. But the Dream It. Do It. campaign is creating change for the positive.

What is Dream It. Do It.?

“Dream It. Do It. is a national campaign to promote careers in advanced manufacturing to students, parents, educators and the community,” said Kathleen Martel, project coordinator for Cattaraugus and Allegany counties. “In Western New York, we have a five-county partnership (Cattaraugus, Allegany, Chautauqua, Erie and Niagara) working together to bring the message to our schools. Manufacturers cannot find the skilled labor they need and are facing serious shortages as the baby boomers retire over the next five to seven years.”

Martel said that the campaign hosts several events throughout the year to teach students about modern manufacturing. In addition, activities and presentations that highlight manufacturing and STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math) careers as well as encouraging the development of soft skills  (communications, work ethic, team work), are presented at area schools.

Martel explained, “Here in Cattaraugus and Allegany counties, we started the effort in 2007 as the Southern Tier Advanced Manufacturing Initiative (STAMI). Our first major success was helping BOCES in Olean open their Advanced Manufacturing training facility for students and adults. It was in 2009 that we joined Chautauqua County in the Dream It. Do It. program. This year, Erie and Niagara County joined the effort.”

Currently, manufacturers are suffering from a shortage of workers because the current generation does not realize that there are lucrative jobs available. That is why Martel is pioneering a new awareness of the manufacturing industry through the Dream It. Do It.  program by developing a pipeline for skilled labor.

Martel said, “My goal is to help our area industries grow and possibly encourage other industries to come to Western New York, because we have a program in place to develop a pipeline of skilled labor. Without that pipeline, our industries suffer and may be forced to move … Western New York is a great place to live and raise a family. We need to make sure we keep the jobs here so our children have the option to stay.”

Martel most recently worked for Dresser-Rand, where she gained experience and valuable knowledge about the manufacturing industry, its workforce, and all that it entails. This experience is allowing her to bring a new awareness of manufacturing and production industries.

Through the Dream It. Do It. campaign, students will be able to witness manufacturing operations firsthand through school tours and event days to inform and increase awareness of future career opportunities.

If schools cannot visit for some reason, Martel can offer presentations of the program and simulate a day in the life of a manufacturing/technical staff employee.

“The most effective way to break the image is through company tours. Manufacturing definitely has changed over the years. It’s mainly clean and very safe. Bringing students into the factories is the best proof we can provide,” she said.

Other campaign publicity includes career fairs and college open houses. Martel goes into classrooms and gives presentations to all high school students. With her coworkers, they engage students in the classroom in hands-on activities while informing them about the industry.

The next event is a Tech Tour scheduled for Nov. 15. Schools that choose to participate are paired with manufacturers. The students receive a tour of the company and then a presentation about the company and the types of jobs available. College fairs then help students determine the best educational paths to gain the knowledge and training to work in this industry.

Martel’s vision is for more manufacturing businesses to become involved and to show their support of Dream It. Do I.

She said, “The key to this program is teamwork. We have great manufacturers, schools and colleges here. Working together, we can do great things for Western New York.”