A screenshot of the first virtual tour at Simmons Machine Tool Corp. in Menands.

Approximately 50 participants attended the first “Career Pathways in the Capital Region” virtual tours on December 18. The interactive events, hosted by the Office of School Improvement at Questar III, are designed to connect guidance counselors, teachers and administrators with area businesses.

The aim is to inform educators about local industries so they may better guide and engage students about the diversity of opportunities available to them in the Capital Region. The events also offer a view into how industry and higher education are partnering to address workforce development needs.

“We would like to see this initiative stretch across various industries – cyber security, trades and STEM – to name a few,” said Jim Church, Director of Strategic Initiatives at Questar III, an organizer of the event.

The events are designed to provide educators with additional information and resources to help guide students towards tangible and rewarding career trajectories and be inspired by what is possible in the Capital Region.

The first event focused on manufacturing. David Davis, President and COO of Simmons Machine Tool Corporation (SMT) – an international leader in machine tool technology – led a virtual tour of their facility in Menands, where the company focuses on industrial machinery for freight and commuter rail systems. Simmons has partnered with Hudson Valley Community College to offer corporate sponsorship of students earning an Associate in Occupational Studies (A.O.S.) degree from the college’s Advanced Manufacturing Technology program. The sponsorship makes possible tuition aide, real world experience and future employment opportunities.

Asked what kinds of students might be a good fit for this type of work, Davis noted, “Kids that are interested in technology classes, shop classes, that seem to be interested in building something with their hands.” He explained that math scores are not the only indicator of aptitude in this area. “I’m an engineer, but I was awful at math in high school. In college I had a lab where I could utilize my hands, and suddenly I realized the connection between math and what I was doing with my hands.”

The Gene F. Haas Center for Advanced Manufacturing on the HVCC Troy campus.

Following Simmons, Brian Wickham and Tim Howe, faculty members in Hudson Valley Community College’s Advanced Manufacturing Technology program, offered a tour of the new Gene F. Haas Center for Advanced Manufacturing Skills (CAMS) – a 37,000 square foot state-of-the-art facility located on the college’s Troy campus. “Tim and I both went through the program,” Wickham noted. “Tim is working on his bachelor’s degree now… and I am currently completing my master’s.”

Wickham pointed out that the partnership between the college and local industry (Watervliet Arsenal, General Electric Power, Simmons Machine Tool, Package One, Allendale Machinery Systems) keeps the program one step ahead.

“Our partners come to us and say, ‘This is what we are doing… this is going to be standard in five years,’ and we start implementing it. Because everything moves so fast in this field, you have to stay a couple of years ahead to keep the students as current as possible,” Wickham said.

He added that giving students a thorough foundation in the fundamentals is equally as important.

Please visit https://www.questar.org/services/educational/school-improvement/ to learn more about Questar III’s Office of School Improvement and upcoming professional development opportunities, including the “Career Pathways in the Capital Region” series.

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