Select Manufacturing and Industry Leaders Invited; College Partnering with Three Local Organizations

NEWBURGH, N.Y. -- In collaboration with the Council of Industry, Orange County Industrial Development Agency and the Center for Occupational Research and Development, SUNY Orange will convene a series of four focus groups this June that will allow approximately 60 local executives to weigh in on the need for new curricula to address the perceived shortage of local workers with advanced manufacturing skills.

The College’s Advanced Manufacturing Forum invitations are being sent to local manufacturers in a variety of industries, including construction, semiconductors, lighting, plastics, food and beverage, chemicals, renewable energy, printing, pharmaceuticals and more. The four 15-member sessions are planned for June 20-21 and 27-28. The Advanced Manufacturing Forum, to be facilitated by SUNY Orange's Continuing and Professional Education staff, follows similar forums initiated by the College to assist the healthcare and banking industries.

In the seven-county Hudson Valley area, manufacturing continued to decline in 2011, with the New York State Department of Labor reporting a net loss of 1,400 jobs. However, recent analysis by the Boston Consulting Group and others suggests that some manufacturing activity may return to the U.S. over the next five years. The impact of that activity could mean as much as $100 billion in increased output, two to three million new jobs, and a reduction of between 20 and 35 percent in the non-oil trade deficit, according to BCG.

“It’s been reported that nationally, an estimated two million jobs are going unfilled because employers can’t find qualified manufacturing workers,” says James Petro, Orange County IDA chairman. “We want to find out if that’s happening in Orange County, and the region, as well.”

SUNY Orange President Dr. William Richards noted, “We’ve all heard that a skills gap exists in the Hudson Valley, but our local information to date has been anecdotal. Now we are going to get detailed data on what employers really need to close that gap.”

With more than 100 members, The Council of Industry is acknowledged to be the pulse of local manufacturers. The shortage is of growing concern to members, indicates Harold King, Council executive director. “Given that there are already many machinist jobs that are going unfilled and that the average age of machinists in the region is upwards of 60 years old, manufacturers are facing a real crisis over the next 10 years or so. We need to take steps now to fix the problem.”

Advanced manufacturing entails rapid transfer of science and technology into manufacturing products and processes. Many advanced manufacturing facilities use CNC (computer numerical control) machines. These machine tools are operated by commands encoded on a storage medium rather than being controlled manually via hand wheels or levers.

The first NC machines were built in the 1940s and 1950s, based on existing tools that were modified with motors that moved the controls to follow points fed into the system on punched tape. These early servomechanisms were rapidly augmented with analog and digital computers, creating the modern computer numerical control (CNC) machine tools that have revolutionized the machining processes.

The chief driver of the potential resurgence in U.S. manufacturing is shifting socioeconomic factors inside China. Wages in China have been on the rise in recent years and some estimates peg wage increases in coastal Chinese cities at more than 1,000 percent in just the last year or so.

Rising wages and an increase in the ranks of the middle class have eroded China’s powerhouse status as the global center for cheap manufacturing. Increased transportation costs and the complicated nature of geographically far-flung supply chains could lead many U.S. companies to reassess the wisdom of offshore manufacturing in China, according to BCG.

The Center for Occupational Research and Development, a national leader in career pathway programs and curriculum development, will bring its subject matter expertise to the process in helping the College turn the ideas for programs and courses that are generated from the forum into reality.

For more information, contact Don Green, coordinator of Business Solutions and Professional Development at SUNY Orange, at (845) 341-9718.

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Mike Albright
Communications Officer
115 South Street
Middletown, NY 10940