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Coach's Corner: Lessons Learned in Genesee County's Playing Fields and Greenfields

Fri, Nov 12th 2021 08:00 am

We’ve hit the time of year when we rally around our high school teams, and I could not be prouder of what I’m seeing.

Our student-athletes are doing tremendous work.

It doesn’t go unnoticed in our schools, our families, and our communities. And our employers are cheering along too!

I was watching Le Roy finish their football season in the playoffs last weekend on a beautiful fall day. The season didn’t end the way the Oatkan Knights wanted, but each and every student in our fall sports season has showed the skills they will bring in the future.

Our student-athletes are clearly hard workers. Our companies love that these kids see the challenges in front of them, know what it takes to achieve their goals, and that opportunities are not just given. Our companies see student-athletes are coachable and are excelling in team environments.

I saw those skills across our entire region at GLOW With Your Hands. We had another great day of career experiences and conversations at the end of September.

More than 1,200 students have now participated in the event, meeting with dozens of manufacturers, skilled trades professionals, and our food production industry. After a year of video conferencing, having so much direct interactions with equipment and employers was energizing!

GLOW With Your Hands shows that we have the talent that companies need. The next generation of manufacturing leaders will come from our high school students who are already on a college or career pathway.  Students on a career pathway can get into an in-demand job and receive on-the-job training with little or no student debt.

I wish we could do GLOW With Your Hands every weekend, but this year’s event couldn’t have come at a better time.

In the past month, Genesee County has welcomed two more major projects in our green field developments. Like our playing fields, these projects require and reward the skills shown at GLOW With Your Hands and in across our schools this fall.

On Oct. 20, Plug Power broke ground at STAMP on the single-largest project investment ever in Genesee County. A week later, Liberty Pumps celebrated an expansion that will bring their membership above 300 people in Bergen. At the same time, multiple projects are building in both downtown Batavia and the Gateway II Business Park/Saile Drive corridor.

These are outstanding projects. They represent how our economy will continue to grow.

Most importantly, Plug Power and Liberty Pumps alone will be adding 100 new permanent jobs. And there’s plenty of construction jobs on display at both sites.

Even with companies growing and labor availability challenges across our country, filling these new jobs is a challenge that Genesee County is ready to answer.

And its our student-athletes that lead the solution.

I watched Le Roy senior leader Zach Vanderhoof on the field last weekend – and I’ve seen Zach guide younger students through the mechatronics training area at GLOW With Your Hands. I’ve seen him stand up as one of the first youth apprentices drafted by a local company last spring, and excel at Genesee Valley BOCES.

And he’s not alone. Since launching GLOW With Your Hands, the enrollment at Genesee Valley BOCES’ career and technical education centers has increased 30%.  Parents are realizing that not every student is meant for college or book learning.  The applied learning format, coupled with real life work experiences in high school, is a great route that leads to a fantastic career with a local company.  

- Chris Suozzi is the Vice President of Business & Workforce Development at the Genesee County Economic Development Center