Tyler McNeil, Managing Editor
Forty new spaces in the advanced manufacturing program are expected to open up at Hudson Valley by the fall 2017 semester, nearly doubling the size of the program.
“We made a decision that we were going offer [donations] to only the very best schools in the area and this is such a strong program, it’s one of the strongest we see in the country,” said Kathy Looman, administrator for the Gene Haas Foundation, the organization which donated $1 million to the Hudson Valley Foundation to expand the college’s advanced manufacturing program last Wednesday.
According to Looman, Hudson Valley is the third school the Gene Haas Foundation has selected to allocated a large amount of funds to. “We know the employers in the area are looking to double how many students are coming [to the Advanced Manufacturing Program] so we want to help them do that,” said Looman.
The donation is reportedly one of the largest gifts the college’s foundation has ever received. “This is a monumental occasion for Hudson Valley and for the region,” said President Drew Matonak.
A planned expansion of Lang Hall for the program will be known as the Gene Haas Technology Center in recognition of the gift. The college started a fundraising endeavor in an effort raise money for the $12 million expansion project of Lang Hall, which is scheduled for completion in 2017.
“It’s a huge amount of money and we don’t normally get gifts like this. I’ve been lucky enough to be involved with it or interested in it since the school was founded,” said Conrad H. Lang Jr., who stepped down as Chairman of the Board of Trustees last Tuesday and is the son of the person whom Lang Hall is named after.
“We’re going to have better opportunities to get more advanced machines and hone our skills better,” said Chad Halikias, advanced manufacturing student who was sent over from General Electric to improve his training in the field after working at the company for about seven years.
“It’s going to be great to have more machines. There will be more people to get on there and have more experience with the machinery instead of just waiting around,” said Curtis Erickson, freshman advancing manufacturing student who hopes his field will be more competitive in the future.
“This is a classic example of the private sector participating in the workforce development process. This is what we need,” said Assemblyman John McDonald (D-Cohoes).
“I think it’s going to take a while for the Capital Region to just understand how meaningful this is, not just for our students at Hudson Valley but for the region in general,” said Mark Mitchell, director of internal audit at New York State Energy Research and Development Authority. According to the college, upon graduation, the program has a 100 percent job placement rate and 95 percent of students secure jobs before graduating.
By 2020, about 220,000 positions in the Capital Region’s advanced manufacturing field are expected to open up but the amount of new workers to fill these positions, according to Phil White, is much lower. “As we reach the age of retirement for people who have no hair or gray hair, there’s going to be an even greater shortfall [of workers], which is going to require more people to be trained,” he said.
White mentioned that expansion of the program is necessary as a step to keep advanced manufacturing jobs thriving in the upstate economy. “The only way we can attempt to fulfill or improve the offerings to the community is to expand our facility,” said White.