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VP Biden joins optics companies in praising MCC job training program

Ontario, N.Y. -- Theres a reason Vice President Joseph Biden held up MCC, and Rochester, as an example of a job training program that could be duplicated around the country.  Many of the students graduating from the applied technology programs already have jobs.

Many more of those jobs are going unfilled, for a lack of qualified candidates.

We need to have an extremely adaptable workforce, explains Alejandro Mendoza, human resources manager at Optimax.  

Optimax is based in Wayne County. It is a manufacturer of precision optics for use in medical equipment and even for NASA. Two of the lenses made here, for example, are on the Mars Rover.

These are not your grandfathers manufacturing jobs. 

Unlike the assembly jobs that made up a large portion of Kodaks workforce, and paying good wages, manufacturing of the future is more high-tech and specialized.  Instead of making thousands and thousands of an identical item, the runs at Optimax are smaller.

It used to be a lot of the skills you needed were right out of high school, said Gregory French, who has worked in optics for 16 years, including four at Optimax.  Now you really need to be able to have task-specific training.

Lenses are crafted individually, he explained. The difference between precision and mistake is measured in microns. Analyzing each finished piece for imperfections requires knowledge in math and physics.

If you are not committed to continually learning, both day to day and in an academic sense, youre going to be hindering yourself, said Mendoza.

Four out of every 10 Optimax employees have received training or retraining at MCC.  The company said there is a reason why the applied technology training is different.

For starters, manufacturers work directly with MCC to design training programs with the specific skills they are looking for.  The applied technology programs work because local manufacturers tell MCC what workers need to know and MCC trains them.

Were really connected to the industries that serve the regions that we serve, said Dr. Anne Kress, MCC president.  That partnership is critical to offering the kind of training that will grow the workforce of our region.

After four years at Optimax, French wants to take his career to the next level.  He has enrolled at MCC and has seen an immediate connection between school and work. 

I can make linear lines between almost every class that I have taken at MCC, and it directly fits with what my role is currently here, he said.

More than 700 high-tech manufacturing jobs in the Rochester area are unfilled because there are not enough workers with the proper skills.  If the pool of these workers doesnt grow, small businesses, such as Optimax, cannot grow either.

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Washington Times