November 27, 2021

BOCES cuts some tech classes

Welding, electrical among courses no longer offered at C’ville site

Dan Lyon/contributing photographer

RIchard Service, a welder at Homer Iron Works, works on a piece of aluminum Friday.

Diane Wheaton took down a flier that was hanging in the Cortland Career Works Office on Main Street a few days ago. It advertised adult education programs through BOCES, but it’s not relevant anymore.

Most of the classes on the list — welder/fitter, HVAC/R tech, office tech and electrical tech — won’t be offered at the McEvoy Center of the Board of Cooperative Educational Services on Route 13 in Cortlandville anymore because of low enrollment. Only the medical assistant and automotive technology classes will continue in Cortlandville.

Students interested in the other classes will now have to drive to Liverpool after this semester.

Wheaton said as she stood in the Career Works Center on Thursday that she thinks the classes being canceled locally will deter students from getting trained in these technical fields.

The change is still new, so she has only seen one student affected so far — he’ll be trying to get on a waiting list for a HVAC technical program in Syracuse.

“I don’t think a lot of people will want to drive to Liverpool, “ she said. “They don’t even want to drive to Syracuse for work.”

Cortland County Business Development Corporation Executive Director Garry VanGorder said he doesn’t understand the declining enrollment.

“It’s an interesting disconnect because all the information we have is that our business community is starving for people with vocational skills,” he said. “People who can build a house and can plumb a bathroom and can fix things.”

VanGorder said he wants to explore why there has been low demand for these classes — he plans to take it up with county and workforce development officials.

The problem was first reported on at the Aug. 9 Health and Human Services Committee.

“I would think as people reenter the workforce, I would think those would be popular programs because if you come through one of those programs odds are you get a job right away, and a good job,” he said.

The BOCES adult education classes last six months and the most recent classes graduated Aug. 7.

Available in Liverpool

The OCM BOCES classes that will no longer be offered in Cortlandville — but are still offered to students at the main campus in Liverpool:
• Cosmetology
• Electrical maintenance
• Office technology
• Welder/fitter

— Source: OCM BOCES Adult Education Director Mari Ukleya

Wheaton’s office works closely with BOCES, both sending people there for continuing education and helping recent graduates secure jobs.

Wheaton said about half of the office technology graduates from a class of 12 in the spring of 2018 already have jobs upon graduating and she could name several employers, including Square Deal Machining, Homer Iron Works and Forkey’s Fabrication, who hired from the recent class of welders.

Homer Iron Works owner Mike Park said the business always needs welders — it’s a trade, after all.

“We need tradesmen and to be dropping it doesn’t even make sense,” he said.

Jody Manning, Onondaga- Cortland-Madison BOCES superintendent, said in an e-mail last week that the Cortlandville campus de-activated several full-time programs because of “lack of demand and declining enrollments.”

“However, we are fully prepared to quickly and easily reinstate any of these programs if the demand re-emerges and enrollments follow suit,” he stated.

Job Placement

OCM BOCES provided job placement figures for fall 2017:
• Automotive: Nine employed out of 11 graduates.
• Electrical: Four employed out of five graduates.
• HVAC/R: All seven graduates were employed.
• Medical assisting: 12 were employed out of 14 graduates.
• Office technician: Eight were employed out of 10 graduates.
• Welder/fitter: One was employed of three graduates.

— Source: OCM BOCES Adult Education Director Mari Ukleya

Exact enrollment figures needed vary by class — because of space and supply needs — but double digit enrollment is needed to sustain all programs, said district Marketing Coordinator Jackie Wiegand. In Cortlandville, it’s not coming close to that.

Just two students enrolled in office technology classes in Cortlandville for the fall, said Wiegand. Last spring, cosmetology and HVAC classes were canceled because enrollment was so low.

Four students were enrolled in electrical technology and there were no welding enrollments for September, she said.

“Over the past year, we have consistently had to delay starts of programs so we could do additional marketing and try to get enough students to run classes,” she said.