The college’s Business and Community Partnerships team is laser-focused on building a steady pipeline of employees to meet the expanding and changing workforce requirements of Fulton County employers as well as future employers who will be moving to the area. A huge piece of its workforce development efforts centers around robust certificate and microcredential programs. These academic offerings are aimed at making students ready to enter the workforce within six months to a year equipped with specialized experience related directly to area businesses. The college develops these programs in tandem with employers.
As part of its Collaborative Career Learning (COCAL) program, the college can develop individual studies programs tailored to meet a specific employer’s workforce needs. “We can work with the employer if there’s a special occupation or job title that they are looking to fulfill within the community,” said Christie Davis, Director of External Partnerships and Applied Learning. She said that FMCC is one of the few State University of New York colleges approved to offer individual studies certificates, averaging between 30 and 40 different areas for the past two years.
The cannabis industry is a case in point. With the legalization of cannabis for adult recreational use in New York State, new related businesses came into the region in need of skilled workers. In rapid response, the college became the first area school to offer cannabis certificate programs for cultivation technicians and dispensary managers.
The COCAL model is a combination of related classroom courses as well as hands-on experience working at a local partner business at the same time. Peregrine Toke, LLC, a cannabis-growing business in nearby Schoharie County, partners with the college. Founder and owner Kate Miller has had three interns from the program. “I’ve had wonderful experiences,” she said.
Her first intern returned after he graduated and worked for a summer. The second student interned twice and is now an employee of the company, working as a cannabis cultivator, building his knowledge of the industry, and contributing his skills in other areas of the business, including helping with the website, writing standard operating procedures for new equipment, and grant writing. A third intern from the COCAL program works alongside him.
“If people show initiative and show me that they’ve got skills and want to learn something new, I’m really open to that,” Miller said, adding that she has had good working relationships with all three interns. “It’s amazing to have people who are really engaged and excited about the position. People joining these programs seem to be the folks who are excited about learning a new skill and joining the workforce.”
Some interns are paid and others are not, but all get college credit for their work. A huge benefit for partner employers is that they have the opportunity to observe interns as potential employees. “They almost have a probationary period with somebody,” Davis said. “It’s a nice way to sort of test your work pool without the commitment.”
Ron Fortes, Laboratory Manager at Nathan Littauer Hospital in Gloversville had a chance to do just that with Amsterdam resident Miriam Riedle, a May 2022 graduate who earned an individual studies certificate concentrating in phlebotomy.
Riedle is an example of one population that the college serves—returning adults looking to uplevel their skills. She was working as a nursing assistant when she saw the need for blood draws with her patients and how important those results were to physicians in determining a course of treatment.
“I learned by performing the work as well as in the classroom learning the skills I needed,” Riedle said. She took courses in allied health, patient care, ethics in healthcare, medical terminology, anatomy and physiology, American Red Cross CPR, and computer skills.
In the middle of her site training before she graduated, the hospital hired her.
“I am so grateful that through this program I got employed immediately,” Riedle said. The certificate programs are shorter than degree programs, so they put graduates into the workforce faster.
The certificate program turns out to be a win-win for both employees and employers. Fortes welcomes FMCC students and appreciates having a role in training new phlebotomists. “I love what FMCC has done for their certificate program in phlebotomy, as it has helped students to be more prepared with the knowledge and skills they need prior to their internships,” Fortes said. “We find these students to be well versed with the theoretical aspects of phlebotomy itself, and they are all easily trained.”
The college’s microcredential program is even shorter than a certificate program, and it helps keep the current workforce up-to-date with skills in industries in which technology changes rapidly. “If someone is working in an office environment, but maybe their experience is from 15 years ago, with a short-term microcredential of three to five classes, they can earn this badge, and hopefully it will help them,” Davis said. Like certificate programs, microcredentials can also be developed jointly with an employer. Currently the college offers between 30 and 40 of these microcredentials.
The college’s faculty members and staff are highly attuned to local employers’ needs because they actively seek input and change and add to their programs and courses annually based on this feedback. This makes FMCC’s offerings to students dynamic, addressing changes in the business and industry landscape.
High-tech manufacturing and research is a good example. The area surrounding Fulton County is ripe with high-tech industry, with leading research, development and commercialization organization NY Creates to the southeast, semiconductor manufacturer GlobalFoundries to the northeast, and silicon carbide technology and production company Wolfspeed to the west. In the next few years, the nanotechnology triangle will grow significantly to include computer memory chip specialist Micron’s construction of a massive $31 billion manufacturing complex on the far west end of the triangle, and GlobalFoundries’ addition of 800 acres to its Malta, New York complex. As this expansion takes place and businesses that produce goods and services that high-tech companies require to complete their work flock to Fulton County’s shovel-ready sites and affordable buildings, FMCC will be standing at the ready to develop programs to meet their unique workforce needs quickly.