Work begins on new FWD Center

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MCC president DeAnna Burt-Nanna and SUNY Chancellor Jim Malatras, with MCC students and a robot.

The start of construction on the $11.4 million Finger Lakes Workforce Development Center on Monroe Community College’s downtown campus was marked Thursday.

The new facility will focus on short-term and accelerated training programs that place individuals in high-demand jobs within advanced manufacturing, information technology, health care, skilled trades apprenticeship, and professional services. It aims to train at least 2,500 students in its first three years of operation. The center is expected to open early 2022.

In a recent survey state Labor Department survey, 48 percent of New York employers ranked the lack of qualified applicants as the main barrier to hiring.

“Because of skills gaps, there are critical workforce shortages across our state and SUNY will help fill that growing need,” says SUNY Chancellor Jim Malatras. “Today’s start of construction of the Finger Lakes Workforce Development Center is a key example of our SUNY for All program—going into communities too often left behind; bringing multiple colleges together under one roof to leverage the individual SUNY campuses’ strength to provide students more opportunities; and connecting students who will be ready for work, with the Department of Labor and public industry partners ready to connect them to in-demand, well-paying jobs.”

The FWD Center will be operated with industry and partnerships with Genesee Community College, Finger Lakes Community College, BOCES, Rochester Institute of Technology, Greater Rochester Enterprise, the Labor Department, RochesterWorks!, and Monroe County.

“SUNY is creating clear education-to-career pathways for our students, and helping the economy move forward after all the hardships faced by businesses throughout New York State due to the pandemic,” said Robert Duffy, a SUNY trustee and Greater Rochester Chamber of Commerce president and CEO.

The project has an $11.4 million budget, with $6 million coming from a SUNY2020 grant, and $5.4 million drawn from the Finger Lakes Forward Upstate Revitalization Initiative. Undeveloped sections on the fifth and sixth floors of the MCC downtown campus at 321 State St. will be renovated to house the 50,000-square-foot center.  

“As Industry 4.0 changes the way all of us live and do business, it’s critical that employers have access to a workforce that is able to use smart technologies in business environments,” says MCC president DeAnna Burt-Nanna. “The (center) will be home to affordable, high-caliber education and training programs that will be accessible to diverse learners across the region, preparing them for in-demand, tech-oriented careers that pay living wages and are less vulnerable to future displacement.”

The center’s programs and services will include:

■ skilled trades, apprenticeships and training in Industry 4.0, automation, artificial intelligence, Internet of Things and smart technologies;

■ short-term and accelerated training—both credit- and noncredit-bearing—linked to stackable credentials;

■ job-placement assistance, career exploration and counseling; and

■ experiential learning opportunities in tech-oriented fields that offer college credits for early college high school students.

The FWD Center originally was to be located at Eastman Kodak Business Park. In August 2019, Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced the relocation to the MCC downtown campus.

LeChase Construction Services is the project’s construction manager. The lead architect is SWBR Architecture, Engineering & Landscape Architecture P.C.

Paul Ericson is Rochester Beacon executive editor.

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