International Partnership Pilots Career Apprenticeship Initiative to Retain CNY Graduates

Posted on August 9, 2023

Alan Rottenberg speaks on Career Apprenticeship Initiative

Career Apprenticeship Initiative in Central New York aims to retain more of this college-educated talent in the region.

SYRACUSE, NY – CenterState CEO; Alan Rottenberg, founder of the Canadian Career Apprenticeship Initiative; the Kingston Economic Development Corporation (KEDCO); SUNY Oswego, Le Moyne College, Syracuse University; area employers and recent college graduates gathered in Syracuse to celebrate the kick-off of the Career Apprenticeship Initiative (CAI).

The pilot program offers Central New York graduates a one-year apprenticeship with regional employers, with a focus on liberal arts graduates. Employers are offered a $7,500 salary reimbursement for agreeing to hire and train the student for a year. Thus far, the initiative has brought together six employers and students, with plans to continue the program in the next year. Syracuse is the first pilot of the program in the United States.

“This region is a major producer of college educated graduates–there are approximately 140,000 students who attend college here every year (1 in every 10 CNY residents is a college student), with students coming from all over the world to attend college here. However, most of them leave after graduation, despite the significant level of employment opportunities here,” said Rob Simpson, president of CenterState CEO. “With Micron and its suppliers soon to join our community, and nearly 7,000 professional and technical opportunities from over 240 employers listed on The Good Life CNY website (the highest it’s ever been), it’s imperative we find new, creative ways of sourcing the talent our employers need.”

The Career Apprenticeship Initiative in Central New York aims to retain more of this college-educated talent in the region. It is modeled on a similar program, funded by the Canadian Career Apprenticeship Initiative, that has operated successfully in Canada for several years. Rottenberg, the founder and creator of the program in Canada, noted that the Central New York program offers:

  • First full-time career employment upon graduation.
  • 12-month, fully paid job offer from the participating employer.
  • Onboarding, training and mentoring provided by the participating employers.
  • Employers receive four months of a salary subsidy based equal to $7,500 (USD) per participant.
  • A focus on liberal arts graduates, with degrees in the arts, humanities, music, theater, social sciences, psychology, English or foreign languages.

The Canadian program model has shown that participating cities retain motivated, competent, and capable university graduates who might otherwise depart for bigger cities in search of work.

“Liberal arts graduates are often overlooked by employers. These students pursued their passion in college and learned skills through creative expression, but often struggle at the critical juncture between school and finding a pathway to a career,” said Rottenberg. “Many can remain unemployed, or underemployed for months or years post-graduation and ultimately leave communities looking for more opportunities in large centers. However, we have found that 90% of the participants who successfully complete the apprenticeship are retained by their employers, and the graduates stay in the communities after the apprenticeship ends.”

The employers participating in the pilot program this year include Excellus BlueCross BlueShield, INFICON, American Food & Vending, SUNY Upstate Medical University, Syracuse Housing Authority and Community Bank.

“These businesses had such a positive experience during the program’s successful pilot that more local companies have approached us to participate in the second cohort,” said David Mankiewicz, senior vice president for research, policy and planning at CenterState CEO. It is clear that the demand for arts and humanities students is growing, and initiatives like this help to connect the talent coming out of the region’s colleges and universities with local businesses.”

“The Career Apprenticeship Initiative (CAI) connects to a fundamental component of our key talent objectives at Excellus BCBS, aiming to both attract and retain local talent post-graduation, while also offering avenues for career advancement well beyond that point,” said Tim Lippincott, corporate VP, Talent Management, Excellus BlueCross BlueShield. “In the face of an increasingly competitive talent market, our collaboration with CAI has enabled us to uniquely engage with local talent. Notably, during our selection process, we were pleasantly surprised by the remarkable skill sets exhibited by candidates. Through this partnership, we've managed to connect with an often overlooked pool of local talent, utilizing innovative and novel approaches.

The program is the latest outgrowth of a new relationship Syracuse and Central New York has built with Kingston, Ontario, known as the Kingston Syracuse Pathway. Kingston Syracuse Pathway partners include CenterState CEO, the Kingston Economic Development Corporation (KEDCO), SUNY Upstate Medical University and Queen’s University. The pathway started around common interests, such as cross-border medical research, and broadened into other areas, such as providing “soft landings” for businesses from either country. The idea for the apprenticeship initiative was brought to CenterState CEO by KEDCO Chief Executive Officer Donna Gillespie, who had run the program successfully in Kingston for several years. The apprenticeship program is overseen by the CenterState CEO Foundation, a 501c3 affiliate of CenterState CEO.

“The career apprenticeship program was piloted in Kingston, Ontario with Queen’s University in 2018. We are thrilled to see, after five years, more than 50 new arts graduates launching their first careers in Kingston and establishing roots in the community,” said Gillespie. “The initial incentive support has generated over $2.5 million in ongoing payroll. We are excited to see the first U.S. apprenticeship program launch in Syracuse. It is fitting as our two cities have a long-standing relationship through the Kingston Syracuse Pathway, the fourth economic corridor in the USA/Canada. Our communities have similar demographics with strong post secondary talent and the program has direct impact connecting our employers and retaining young professionals.”

“If there is a Syracuse business that wants to enter the Canadian market, then I can refer them to KEDCO who will make sure that the business is helped in Kingston,” said Mankiewicz, senior vice president for research, policy and planning at CenterState CEO. “In return, if there are Canadian firms that want to enter the U.S. market, we will find the businesses opportunities to connect with potential U.S. customers.”

Employers interested in learning more should contact David Mankiewicz at CenterState CEO, or 315-470-1800.

About CenterState CEO

CenterState CEO is Central New York’s premier business leadership and economic development organization, committed to creating a region where business thrives, and all people prosper. Its vision is to be recognized as a visionary leader, effective advocate, exceptional employer, and a force for positive outcomes for our community.

About the CenterState CEO Foundation

CenterState CEO Foundation’s mission is to support CenterState CEO’s charitable, community-focused activities, such as inclusive workplace and workforce development strategies and support for entrepreneurs from historically excluded populations and/or disinvested neighborhoods.

About Kingston Economic Development Corporation

Kingston Economic Development Corporation (KEDCO) is the sales and marketing arm for the City of Kingston, Ontario, Canada, committed to long-term economic sustainability. It is a separately incorporated not-for-profit agency governed by a twelve-member board of directors with representation from the business community and municipal council. Its success is based on the attraction of new business, the growth and retention of existing business and tourism opportunities, measured by the resulting economic impact on the community. KEDCO oversees attraction and aftercare, business growth and retention, and startups and entrepreneurship portfolios.

About the Canadian Career Apprenticeship Initiative

CCAI is a national non-profit organization that launches meaningful careers for new graduates by partnering with leading universities and local economic development organizations to match new graduates with full-time jobs in local companies through an apprenticeship model. Participating cities retain motivated, competent, and capable university graduates who might otherwise depart for bigger cities in search of work.


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