Talk CNY in Focus: How Do We Make Careers More Accessible?

Posted on June 21, 2024

Talk CNY - Season 2, Episode 11 - Aimee Durfee

Each month, a member of CenterState CEO’s staff joins the Talk CNY podcast, presented by NBT Bank, to discuss what they’re working on and how it impacts the region. It gives us an opportunity to break down some of the complex work this team takes on day to day.  

On season 2, episode 11, CenterState CEO Vice President of Workforce Innovation Aimee Durfee discusses how her team is continually listening and fine tuning to make sure new career pathways, particularly in the advanced manufacturing industry, are accessible for everyone in the Central New York community: 


We call it advanced manufacturing because of the techniques that are used in that sector. It's more roboticized. It's more technological. That works for an audience that is primarily industry sector leaders. But individuals in the community have told us when they hear the words advanced manufacturing, they think, “Oh, well, I need to have advanced skills. I need to have an advanced degree.” That's not actually true. There are so many jobs in advanced manufacturing that really don't require any degree at all.

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The programs that we've piloted with our training partners [are] trying to boil down - what are the essential skills that are needed for the job - and quickly getting people into those jobs. I think those are the types of techniques that we want to keep doing more and more of so that jobs are more accessible to people, and barriers are not as high.

That involves [working] with employers and training providers, identifying where these opportunities are, and what training partners are in a position to try something new. That's really what we're trying to do. We’re trying to look at the system level and go, “Where are the opportunities to shorten the training, pay people [while they train], do it in a different neighborhood, [and] with a tighter connection to an employer?” Those are the types of things that we pilot. And when they are successful, we try to make sure that they're continuously funded.

The other piece is building a bridge into training. We are piloting [this] summer, a Bridge to Manufacturing Careers program in Syracuse with a group of community organizations. The purpose of this program is to help people prepare to succeed in community college in the programs that will prepare them for jobs in the semiconductor industry. That means brushing up on math, brushing up on English, getting your childcare figured out, understanding what a semiconductor is. That's really the first challenge. Working in a semiconductor facility is a learning curve for people to just even understand - what is this industry? What are the opportunities?

We've done focus groups with folks in the community. Sometimes the response is like, “Yeah, that looks great. I could definitely see myself doing that.” Other times responses are, “Oh, do I need specialized skills to do that? What do I really need? That seems really different.” We've got to break that down and make those pathways really clear for people.

Anything we can add to close it out? It kind of ends abruptly so wondering if there is a summarizing thought we could add in here to close.

Aimee talks more about how the region’s workforce development ecosystem is changing and growing on Talk CNY.

Listen to Aimee on Talk CNY

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