Developing The Workforce

Students _______ and Jennifer Jones work on a machine in the Whitney Applied Technology Center.
Students Jeffrey Williams (left) and Jennifer Jones (right) work on a machine in the Whitney Applied Technology Center.

Jennifer Jones is well on her way to becoming a second generation machine operator thanks to a new program at Onondaga Community College. She spent 24 years in the healthcare industry providing comfort to people in the final years of their lives. The emotional toll of the job wore on her. As she was deciding she needed to do something else, Jones heard about a Machine Operator certificate program starting at the College. “I didn’t want to live paycheck to paycheck any more. I wanted to have a career instead of a job. I was looking for a career and this is it.”

The first day of class was in September but months of behind-the-scenes work was needed before the teaching and learning would begin. The need for the program had been discussed for years. Employers were struggling to find qualified workers for entry level positions in advanced manufacturing.

Assemblyman Al Stirpe, D, Cicero
Al Stirpe

Legislation funding the program was introduced by Assemblyman Al Stirpe (D-Cicero) and included in the 2014-15 New York State budget. OCC was also awarded a $2.5 million grant from the U.S. Department of Labor as part of the Trade Adjustment Assistance Community College and Career Training (TAACCCT) program. That funding led to the enhancement of the College’s Workforce Development office. The College also received a $220,000 grant from JP Morgan Chase in support of workforce development. The generous support would mean all costs for students enrolled in the program would be covered including textbooks and tools.

Early in 2015 Workforce Development hosted a series of meetings with area employers, collecting the information students would need to learn. Designing the coursework based on employer recommendations is known as the DACUM process. DACUM stands for Developing a Curriculum. After a half-century of use it is widely accepted as the best methodology for creating competency-based and employer-driven training to build workforce capacity.

In August 2015 Workforce Development held “draft day” at SUNY EOC, also known as the Syracuse Educational Opportunity Center. Potential students, identified as either unemployed or underemployed were invited to participate. They were tested for their reading, math and employability skills and went through an interview process with community partners and potential employers.

When classes began the schedule was structured to closely mimic a work day. Students would arrive at 8 a.m., break for lunch and continue learning until 3 p.m. five days a week. In the program’s first month the 49-year-old Jones established herself as one of the top students and she’s getting some welcome help at home. Her father is a retired machine operator from Lipe Rollway who enjoys talking shop with his daughter every night. “When I tell him what I’m learning I get so excited and he sees how excited I am. He actually teaches me stuff at home. It’s been a great experience.”

Marty Sedlock
Marty Sedlock

Marty Sedlock brings more real-world experience to the class than any other student. He worked in biotechnology manufacturing in Massachusetts and New Hampshire before being downsized. Sedlock is 51-years-old and attended college much earlier in life. He earned an associate degree from Middlesex Community College in Massachusetts and also took classes at SUNY Oswego. “The class is interesting. It has my brain ticking again because I hadn’t been in school in a long time.” After completing the course and getting a job Sedlock plans to return to OCC. “I want to pursue a two-year degree. I need to figure out what I’m good at and which direction I should go in.”

Troy Jackson views the class as the opportunity of a lifetime. The 38-year-old father of five is focused on success for both himself and his family. “I want to show my children what I can do. It’s part of a progression in my life.” Jackson never graduated from high school but he did earn a GED. With his new found determination he’s been able to master the course work. “It feels really good to be focusing all of my energy on one thing. The crazy thing is that it’s not hard for me. Things may be a little bit confusing sometimes but there isn’t anything I can’t figure out.” Jackson’s goal is to pursue a two-year degree at OCC and eventually open his own manufacturing business.

Troy Jackson
Troy Jackson

The non-credit Machine Operator course is on track to conclude in December. The program includes a 100 hour internship which puts well-performing students on the path to employment. The median wage for machine operators is $36,000.

This program is a collaborative effort involving CenterState CEO, CNY Works, JOBSplus!, MACNY, OCC, OnPoint for College, SUNY EOC and Technology Development Organization, Inc.

OCC’s Manufacturing Machine Operator I program has been funded under a United States Department of Labor TAACCCT Grant whose purpose is to facilitate greater employment by improving workforce education.

Supporting Workforce Development

Onondaga Community College received a $220,000 grant from JPMorgan Chase. A ceremonial check was presented during a press conference June 10 in the Whitney Applied Technology Center. The funding will support the College’s Workforce Development efforts, specifically in the training of students for employment in the agribusiness and food processing industry. The College is partnering with employers, nonprofit organizations and New York State to develop the program.

This generous grant from JPMorgan Chase is part of its $1 million commitment to supporting advanced manufacturing training programs in the upstate regions of Syracuse, Albany, Buffalo and Rochester, and part of a much broader $250 million commitment to address the skills gap in communities around the world. Goals of JPMorgan Chase’s plan include:

  • Building a demand-driven system through cross-sector gatherings to encourage collaboration, share findings and formulate strategies.
  • Investing in the best training and making targeted investments to strengthen and scale the most effective workforce training programs.
  • Relying on data and sponsoring a data-driven analysis of skills demand to supply gaps in local markets.

The focus of this project on the agribusiness and food processing industry is in response to a workforce demand in a growing sector of the economy. The five-county region of Central New York (CNY) includes 3,585 farm businesses generating products with a market value of $673 million. Agricultural commodity sales in New York State (NYS) increased by 20% from 2007-2012 to over $5.4 billion annually and by 21% in CNY during the same period. NYS is a leader in agricultural production of apples (2nd in the U.S.); feed corn (2nd); sweet corn (4th); fruits, tree nuts, and berries, (6th); and vegetables for market (8th). NYS is the nation’s third largest producer of fluid milk and commodity crops and was the nation’s top yogurt producer in 2012, 2013 and 2014. In addition, there are more than 200 food processing companies in CNY, including a growing list of farm breweries and distilleries producing beer, hard cider, wine, and spirits.

In October 2014, OCC was awarded a $2.5 million grant from the U.S. Department of Labor as part of the Trade Adjustment Assistance Community College and Career Training (TAACCCT) program in support of this effort.

“We are thrilled to be selected by JPMorgan Chase to receive this important grant funding. Through our Workforce Development program we are committed to responding to the needs of both local employers and workers and aligning the needs of both as we work to advance the economic vitality and growth of the Central New York region. Having this support in place will make a significant impact upon our mission,” said OCC President Dr. Casey Crabill.

“All of us on the Board of Trustees are keenly aware of OCC’s critical role in the community and the opportunity we have to make Central New York a better place for all of us. We applaud JPMorgan Chase for being our partners in this effort through their very generous grant. We are very fortunate to have their support and thank them for it,” said Margaret M. “Meg” O’Connell, Chair, OCC Board of Trustees.

“At JPMorgan Chase, we believe we have a fundamental responsibility to use our resources and expertise to help the communities where we live and work. We are proud to be partnering with Onondaga Community College to provide training to folks in Syracuse that will fill important jobs within the advanced manufacturing sector,” said Mark Allen, Upstate New York Region Executive, Commercial Banking at JPMorgan Chase.

“I am grateful to community partners JPMorgan Chase and Onondaga Community College for their ongoing support of transformative solutions to impact both employers and un-and-underemployed residents in our community,” said Robert Simpson, president of CenterState CEO. “This new investment will dovetail with CenterState CEO’s Work Train initiative, which will align with and support the college’s training programs, helping to develop a manufacturing workforce pipeline in the region.”

OCC is working to ensure the programs it develops are well-aligned with employer needs by using the DACUM (Developing A CurriculUM) process. After a half-century of use, DACUM is widely accepted as the best methodology for creating competency-based and employer-driven training to build workforce capacity. Many state agencies, including the IRS, Texas Occupational Standards Committee, and national, international, and multi-billion dollar corporations, including AT&T, Boeing, Disney, Energizer and General Motors use DACUM to establish effective training programs with superior results.

Several leading employers in the Agribusiness and Food Industry sector have committed to the project including: AGRANA Fruit US, Inc., American Food & Vending, Byrne Dairy, Giovanni Foods, G&C Foods, HP Hood, Food Bank of Central New York and Tops Friendly Markets. Employer partners are committed to identifying and validating competencies, validating curriculum, promoting the program, providing content experts and instructors, identifying career pathways, hiring qualified candidates upon completion and participating in program assessment.

Non-profit partners include CenterState CEO, a 2000-member, business leadership organization; Work Train, a collaborative led by CenterState to link low-income individuals with job-training; the Workforce Development Institute; the Southwest Community Center; Catholic Charities; Syracuse Educational Opportunity Center; the Manufacturer’s Association of Central New York and the Onondaga Farm Bureau. The public workforce investment system is represented by CNY Works and JOBSplus!

Partners in the agribusiness program include SUNY Environmental Science and Forestry, SUNY Morrisville and Cornell University.FEATURE JPMorgan Chase check presentation

Focus on Creating Jobs


Onondaga Community College has appointed Michael Metzgar to serve as Associate Vice President, Economic & Workforce Development. He was chosen from a field of candidates following a national search.

MikeMetzgarMetzgar has more than 15 years of experience in academics and workforce education. Since 2010 he has worked as the Executive Director of Workforce Development and Career Education at Raritan Valley Community College in New Jersey. Metzgar holds a bachelor’s degree in computer science from Lehigh University and a master’s degree in education from the Harvard Graduate School of Education.


Metzgar’s expertise in workforce development will be utilized while overseeing the College’s implementation of a $2.5 million dollar Trade Adjustment Assistance Community College and Career Training (TAACCCT) grant from the U.S. Department of Labor. The focus of the grant is an agribusiness and food-processing program which will encompass food science and safety, production and processing, distribution and logistics, supervisory training and hospitality. The College will partner with numerous local businesses. OCC was the only college in New York State selected to participate in the nationwide $2 billion fund for job training programs at colleges.


As the leader of the Economic & Workforce Development department Metzgar will also oversee non-credit programs, business workforce courses, corporate training, and the Small Business Development Center.

OCC Awarded $2.5 Million Grant for Agribusiness Food Processing Job Training


Onondaga Community College has been awarded a $2.5 million grant from the U.S. Department of Labor to train students for employment in the agribusiness food processing industry. The College will partner with employers, nonprofit organizations and New York State to develop the program.

“Onondaga Community College is absolutely thrilled that its application to the Trade Adjustment Assistance Community College and Career Training (TAACCCT) Grant Program has been selected for funding by the U.S. Department of Labor. We are extremely grateful to Senator Schumer, Senator Gillibrand, Congressman Maffei, Governor Cuomo and Chancellor Zimpher for their outstanding leadership and support of our vision and application. Our efforts will focus on the workforce development needs of local employers and workers in the critically important agribusiness and food industry sectors, one of the priorities identified by the Central New York Regional Economic Development Council. Together with our many partners in business, industry, and in public service, Onondaga Community College will develop and offer cutting-edge educational and training programs that help to advance the economic vitality and growth of the Central New York region,” said Onondaga President Dr. Casey Crabill.

OCC received positive news regarding several other grant applications which will provide students with more opportunities:

Child Care Access Means Parents In School (CCAMPIS)

OCC was awarded CCAMPIS support in the amount of $94,560. The funding will assist 20 to 24 low-income student parents as they work toward successful degree completion. Child care services will be provided at OCC’s Children’s Learning Center.


First in the World Program

OCC is collaborating with SUNY Oswego, Mohawk Valley Community College and On Point for College on a $2.8 million grant through the First in the World Program. The goal is to make college more affordable for students and families while developing effective practices for ensuring more students can access, persist in and complete postsecondary study.


Onondaga Pathways to Careers (OPC)

OCC, Syracuse University, the Syracuse City School District, the public workforce system, and regional economic development and disability service agencies are working together on OPC. They will partner with employers in high growth industries to prepare youths and young adults with disabilities for skilled careers. The OPC program will facilitate transition for youths and young adults with disabilities (ages 14-24) into highly-sought technical training, living wage employment in the targeted high growth industries, and on to a four-year degree and career advancement, as desired. The project is supported by a cooperative agreement with the U.S. Department of Labor Office of Disability Employment Policy. The grant totals nearly $1 million for the first year.