October 20, 2021

County to help pay for TC3 work program

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Tompkins Cortland Community College will work with greater Cortland area businesses to train workers, while giving them credits toward a college degree in a new work force development program that begins in the coming academic year.

“When the students are completing this program, they will find the jobs that will hire students,” said Bill Talbot, vice president of finance and administration for the college. “Together, we can provide the training and the businesses can help provide the introduction (to work).”

The college is looking to transform its current BIZ program toward a broader, community-based program. The new incarnation will identify job market trends and design programs so students are better prepared for the coming jobs, the college reports

“We expect that our investments in workforce development will attract and retain our career-seeking enrollments,” Talbot said. Although semester enrollments have decreased since the start of COVID-19 pandemic, the college expects more than 500 students enrolled in its career-seeking programs.

“The number of students that are actually coming into the programs is starting to rise,” Talbot said.

The Cortland County Legislature voted Thursday, 13-1, to fund one-third the cost of the first year of the program — up to $75,000 of the $200,000 total. Linda Jones (U-Homer), voted no, and legislators George Wagner (R-Lapeer, Marathon), Kelly Preston (U-Homer) and Ron VanDee (D-Cortland) were absent.

Tompkins County will pay for the remaining two-thirds. The proposed budget would spend $1.4 million over three years, but grants would fund about half the cost. By the third year, the students will pay tuition and the program will become self-sustaining, Talbot said.

As enrollment applications are reviewed, the next step is forming partnerships with local businesses like Cortland Biomedical in Cortlandville, which is looking to expand its Lime Hollow Road operations and hire more people with textile experience for its direct labor positions.

The business produces medical textiles components for face masks and devices like catheters.

The company targets recruiting efforts in Southern states for positions in the knitting and woven components, said Eric Brown, the director of operations at Cortland Biomedical. He hopes that will change.

“Over time, we’re realizing that it’s even tougher to recruit from some of those Southern locations,” Brown said. “We have people that are already living in the Cortland community, and for them to be able to learn these skills central to the area, that certainly helps with retention.”

“It’s not just that it’s a pilot program, it’s also if you build it around a micro-credential, it does not require the two-, three-year review period from SUNY to approve the program,” Talbot said. Using micro-credentials, the program does not need approval from the SUNY system. “We have the flexibility to build a program that is very customized.”

“I would love to see some short term skilled trades options — something less than one year, perhaps offering a certificate and combining it with their micro-credential programs,” said Amy Buggs, director of the Cayuga-Cortland Workforce Development Board.

The program’s health care class, an additional registered nurses course, already has a waiting list, Buggs said, and the advanced manufacturing course offers the skills that many employers seek.

Students in the program will earn credits that can go toward an associate’s degree if they choose to continue their education.

“This is, I believe, working in our favor to retain our young people in this county in the long run,” Wagner said after Talbot’s presentation during the Legislature’s Finance and Administration Committee meeting on July 13.

“We would love to partner with our local colleges to even help develop programs to find potential job opportunities as they become available within our business,” Brown said.