An innovative program that trains and equips college students with advanced manufacturing skills is catching the eye of both participants and their future employers. Instrumentation and Control Technologies is a new degree at Finger Lakes Community College that equips students with the kind of knowledge and skills that are in short supply among Rochester area manufacturers.
An innovative program that trains and equips college students with advanced manufacturing skills is catching the eye of both participants and their future employers.
The brainchild of physics professor Sam Samanta, IC Tech, or Instrumentation and Control Technologies, is a new degree at Finger Lakes Community College that equips students with the kind of knowledge and skills that are in short supply among Rochester area manufacturers.
The program also places them in a short-term co-op position, similar to a paid internship, with one of these local manufacturers. There students learn specific skills and earn a wage at the same time. According to college officials, so great is the need for skilled technicians that some students have even been hired before graduation.
About 75 educators, workforce professionals, parents and prospective students got a better understanding of this degree at a special presentation Wednesday night at the FLCC Victor Campus Center, off Route 251. There, four sophomores involved in paid co-op experiences with local employers told about their training, and what they’re looking forward to in the future.
Kerry Lipp of Prattsburgh works on a prototype brick-laying robot at Construction Robotics in Victor. He’s getting invaluable hands-on training and experience, along with a salary, as a student in FLCC’s IC Tech program.
Eric Fiegl of Canandaigua developed software for his co-op in the manufacturing engineering department of G.W. Lisk Co. in Clifton Springs.
Scott Chappelle of Gorham and Keith McWilliams of Canandaigua have spent their co-op time working as technicians responsible for the testing, troubleshooting and repair of a variety of telecom equipment for REDCOM Laboratories in Victor.
“I’ve been a chef for years, and I had just gotten to the point where there was no money, no benefits, nothing to it,” said 39 -year-old McWilliams. “I had no direction, I didn’t really know where to go.”
Samanta told McWilliams about the program and what it offered, and he jumped at the chance.
“I have no electronics experience — no real knowledge of (it), so I thought this would be a good way to round myself out,” McWilliams said. “The co-op has been great. Redcom is a very nice place to work. People are really nice, helpful. And I’m always learning something new.”
Chappelle, 29, told a similar story.
“I worked dead-end, going no-where jobs for a long time,” Chappelle said. “They served their purpose for the time being, but then I starting thinking, ‘what’s my future? I can get another random job to pay the bills for another week, but what if I went to school and got an education and one day had another job?’”
Page 2 of 2 - Chappelle, like McWilliams, met up with Samanta who told him all about the program.
“That sounded really cool,” Chappelle said, “so I enrolled and I’ve been very happy. It worked out really good.”
The part of the experience he values most is that he actually enjoys going to work now, and believes his skills are something employers need. He said he doesn’t feel limited to just one specialty, that the program has equipped him to do a variety of things.
“This is going to benefit me financially in the future,” Chappelle said. “When you work for a better company, they have better hourly pay, but also benefits. There’s 401(k)s, profit sharing, and health insurance — I’ve never had any of that.”
FLCC Community Affairs Specialist Lenore Friend said the program is gaining momentum quickly, thanks in large part to the enthusiasm and creativity of its founder, Sam Samanta. She said employers are not only hiring people with advanced manufacturing skills, they’re also likely to pitch in for continuing education.
“A lot of employers in high tech industries will provide tuition credits,” said Friend, “so that you can go on and you can get a bachelors degree, maybe even your masters degree, all the while you’re working and being paid. Depending on the company, you may be able to get help with tuition. It’s a ladder. We like to encourage people to come (to FLCC) for two years, get your foot in the door, the benefits follow.”
IC Tech is one of several advanced manufacturing degree programs included in a state Labor Department scholarship program.
Unemployed adults — whether recent high school graduates or older workers who have been laid off — may be eligible for an $8,500 scholarship to enroll in Rochester area community college advanced manufacturing two-year degree programs.
At FLCC, scholarship recipients can enroll in the following programs: biotechnology, engineering science, instrumentation and control technologies, architectural technology and mechanical technology.
For more information or to apply, contact Bill Rotenberg at (315) 789-3131, or Sam Samanta at email@example.com or (585) 785-1105, (585) 785-1100.