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HVCC to Build $85M Skilled Labor Center

Citing a desperate need for lab space, Hudson Valley Community College is building an $85 million center to prepare students for skilled labor jobs. "It will allow the college to double the number of students enrolled in skilled trade programs," said President Roger Ramsammy. Right now, electrical science is so popular that the school has already added three classrooms at HVCC North, in Malta, and it wasn’t enough. “We still can’t service all the kids who are applying for that program,” he said. Other skilled labor programs are also booming, he said.

In addition, the college is running many microcredential programs, in which a student might take only a few classes or attend for a few weeks to “upgrade” their skills, as he put it. He wants to do more — much more. He envisions running three-month certificate programs for refugees and immigrants so they can go back to doing the skilled work they did in their previous country.

“They are skilled, they’re just short on U.S. certification,” he said. “They need a certificate that they are indeed at a level to do what they do well, what they’ve been doing all their life.” But all that takes lab space. So HVCC is building a 130,000-square-foot Applied Technology Education Center, which will take the place of Williams Hall and will encompass nearby Cogan Hall. Inside, there will be actual manufacturing labs where students learn how to work with superconductor chips, manufacture electric vehicles, build off-shore wind turbines and more.

“That’s why it’s such a massive building,” Ramsammy said, adding that it actually needs to be bigger.

“We’re building a clean room at the North campus because this building, we’re out of space,” he said. “I can’t expand the building any more than I have.”

Getting donors was difficult, he said, because few community college graduates support their college in the way that people do after graduating from a four-year school. HVCC has received federal support, including a $4 million Economic Development Administration grant for automative manufacturing labs. Alumni who now run their own businesses have donated, as have major companies like GlobalFoundries, which wants more workers trained at HVCC.

“Some of them reap the benefits of our students coming out,” he said. “Some of them just believe in what we’re doing.”

He anticipates that many new students will learn at the building without ever getting a degree.

“This building isn’t just about a degree. It incorporates students who need to upgrade their skills,” he said. “Microcredentials are the key to getting people into the workforce.”

A student could come to HVCC and take five biotech classes, then get a job at Regeneron Pharmaceuticals in Rensselaer County and “have a bright future,” he said. He’s focusing on students like those — the “invisible worker,” he said.

"That’s someone who needs a little education, possibly fewer than two years, to get a well-paying skilled labor job. But they’ve been overlooked," he said.

Now they’re desperately needed.

“I hear this all the time: we are so short-staffed, get me the people with the skills,” Ramsammy said. “A lot of companies are no longer interested in degrees. They will help their workforce get that later, when they want to move up.”

Construction on the center is tentatively scheduled to start next June and finish in 2025.

U.S.-based employees of GlobalFoundries will soon be able to receive tax-free financial assistance from the company to pay down student-loan debt, the chipmaker announced last week. The new benefit program is part of what the company described as a multimillion-dollar investment to strengthen the semiconductor workforce by mitigating the cost of…
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