On time and on budget, the $11.4 million Finger Lakes Workforce Development Center opened its doors in downtown Rochester Monday. It is seen as a model for co-locating multiple colleges and private-sector entities to help fill employers’ growing needs for skilled technicians and to boost the regional economy.
Located at Monroe Community College’s downtown campus, the 50,000-square-foot FWD Center occupies the fifth and sixth floors at 321 State St. The new facility expects to train 2,500 people within the next three years.
“This state-of-the-art education and workforce development center will deliver accelerated training programs to provide New Yorkers in the Finger Lakes with the skills they need to compete in today’s dynamic and ever-changing job market,” said Gov. Kathy Hochul, who was in Rochester for the opening. “As we rebuild our economy, projects like this will ensure that New York remains the most business- and worker-friendly state in the nation.”
The FWD Center combines partnerships among Finger Lakes Community College, Genesee Community College, Monroe Community College, Empire State Development, Rochester Institute of Technology, the city of Rochester, BOCES, Rochester City School District, Rochester Technology and Manufacturing Association, Greater Rochester Enterprise, RochesterWorks!, the state Department of Labor, and Monroe County.
These partnerships connect learners to education and support employment through work-based learning opportunities. The center plans to focus on short-term and accelerated, technology-oriented training programs that place individuals in high-demand jobs in advanced manufacturing, information technology, skilled trades, apprenticeship-related instruction, and professional services.
The FWD Center is designed to adapt to changing needs in industry, including reconfiguring the space for short-term specialty training or expansion. Flexible, simulation labs allow for real-world practice scenarios involving robotics, mechatronics, augmented reality/virtual reality, smart factory/automation, and skilled trades, MCC says.
For instance, a 25,000-square-foot, flame-resistant lab displays inner workings of residential and commercial structures, while a Smart Factory features a $500,000 system that incorporates manufacturing, quality inspection and the sort process, with training on electrical and mechanical equipment.
“The FWD Center represents a pivotal step forward for anyone—from high school students to working parents, military veterans, and those who are underemployed and unemployed—seeking high-quality, fast-track training without going into debt and a high-demand career that pays family-sustaining wages,” said DeAnna Burt-Nanna, MCC president. “MCC’s strong alliances with our peer colleges, employers and industry groups, community leaders, and local and state governments reflect our collective commitment to building stronger, more inclusive communities and providing upward opportunities for residents across all ZIP codes in our region.”
Monies for the facility came from the state and SUNY capital funding, with $6 million awarded from a SUNY2020 grant and $5.4 million from the Finger Lakes Forward Upstate Revitalization Initiative.