After high school, Patricio Siaca went straight to work and over the years held various jobs, ranging from a factory equipment operator to retail management.

Geneo Brown dropped out of high school to help raise his child. But he never gave up on his education and eventually earned his GED.

Both men struggled to find stable, good-paying careers and wanted nothing more than to build a better life for themselves and their families.

“I want to bust my behind so that my children can go to college,” Patricio said.

When an opportunity came along for education and hands-on training in a high-demand field at no cost and to earn a certificate in half the time, they enrolled in Monroe Community College’s accelerated precision tooling certificate program and became workforce-ready in six months.

With job-placement assistance from Rochester Technology and Manufacturing Association, both men are now employed and thriving as CNC operators, their future bright and full of possibilities. It’s a transformational moment in their lives that has made the promise of economic mobility a reality for their families.

In Rochester, N.Y., unemployment rates in some city neighborhoods exceed 30% and childhood poverty rates top national lists. As thousands of residents languish in poverty, across our region thousands of middle-skill jobs go unfilled because of a shortage of qualified workers.

In hopes of eradicating poverty, local leaders—from industry, education, labor, community-based organizations and local government—are working collectively on building bridges to opportunity that put people on the path to a family-sustaining wage and stable, rewarding careers.

Several major initiatives are in the works.

  • Rochester is the site selected for a multimillion-dollar photonics research institute being established as part of a federal plan to support the manufacturing sector. The institute will partner with local higher education and bring thousands of jobs to the Greater Rochester region, creating opportunities for more individuals to move up and out of poverty.
  • As the primary trainer of the local workforce, MCC plays a vital role in the Rochester-Monroe Anti-Poverty Initiative, a groundbreaking program that has brought together state, county, city and community resources to achieve two goals: reduce poverty by 50% in 15 years and increase the number of families that are self-sufficient.
  • MCC is also an integral partner in the Finger Lakes Regional Economic Development Council, a locally driven effort convened by Governor Andrew Cuomo as part of a broader strategic plan aimed at accelerating job creation and economic activity across the state. The council’s latest proposals in competition for state funding include an optics manufacturing expansion.

By putting workforce development at the heart of these initiatives, we hope to finally close the skills gap and help people in poverty today secure good-paying jobs tomorrow. To this end, solutions to these challenges must go deeper than offering new training programs.

Rather, we must work together with local employers and community partners to provide a comprehensive community support net and create paths—in terms of access to affordable, quality education and academic support—for individuals and families to gain employment.