In Depth: Help wanted

February 16, 2017 07:00 PM

ALTAMONT – President Trump ran on the promise of bringing more manufacturing jobs back to the United States.

However, Elaine Houston discovered that's not the real issue here in the Capital Region.

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The Capital Region enjoys about a four percent unemployment rate and employers have jobs available. They say the problem is finding qualified employees to fill those jobs.

It's high end, camera ready and taking up residence in homes across the country. However, when it comes to building space-saving furniture, New York City company, Inova, didn't travel to Mexico or China to manufacture it. They traveled upstate to Altamont.

"It just looked to be a good area to, number one, find employees and ultimately start a company," explained Guy Bucey, the director of operations for Inova.

The niche furniture is the brainchild of a former New York City set designer.

"Loren Sherman, who is the owner of the company, he had a need for a dining room table and also a bed," noted Bucey.

Friends said he should sell it. He did and is now making furniture for the likes of Disney and shipping as far away as Japan.

Since coming to Altamont to open their only manufacturing plant, their workforce has gone from 12 people to 47 people today. They want to hire even more people, but there’s a problem.

"You can't sleep at night and you’re wondering how you're going to do it," admitted Bucey.

His angst is the result of not being able to find skilled laborers. 

"We weren't getting the quality people that we need," he noted.

Moving the factory is the last thing that the company wants to do.

"We’ve invested roughly, right around a million dollars into the company in new machinery, technology," Bucey pointed out.

Maybe they won't have to move, because they're not alone.

"In the last six months, we've had more and more companies say to us, we’re having a difficult time," explained Mark Egan with the Albany-Colonie Regional Chamber of Commerce.

Companies like Inova who are having difficulty finding skilled workers, so the chamber is conducting a survey to figure out the positions that are most difficult to fill and the skill sets that are needed.

However, Bucey isn't waiting. Instead of sending out want ads, he's headed right to the classroom -- specifically Schenectady County Community College. They've joined forces. SCCC will train students in woodworking, finishing work and upholstery. Inova will provide the jobs.

"We want to make sure that there’s jobs at the end that we are not training people for just, you know, one or two jobs," assured Denise Zieske with SCCC.

The college offers a number of courses working with industries from craft brewing, to horticulture, to healthcare and they want employers to drive the training.

"We really want the companies to help with the curriculum development to make sure that what we’re teaching is exactly what will meet their needs," explained Zieske.

Needs Inova is hoping will now be met thanks to a unique collaboration.

"It is a very scary thing," admitted Bucey. "You have sales going through the roof, you have customers who your entire business is based around providing for them and making sure you’re giving that American-made quality product to them and then not being able to find the employment in order to do that."

More information:

Schenectady County Community College: Workforce Development and Community Education

Workforce Development Institute


Elaine Houston

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