ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WROC) — Young people who do not want to go to a four-year college don’t have to miss out on a great career.

The Finger Lakes Youth Apprenticeship Program is helping students get matched up with local advanced manufacturing companies.

Bob Coyne, the Executive Director of the Rochester Technology and Manufacturing Association, discussed the program and its successes Wednesday during our Greater Rochester Enterprise Why ROC conversation.

“There’s always been a demand for employers to find young qualified candidates and there’s always been some desire for youth to seek an alternative to a four-year college,” explained Coyne. “So what the Finger Lakes Youth Apprenticeship Program offers is, we actually go into the schools and educate the parents, the educators, and the students on all of the different advanced manufacturing careers that are out there. Then we also go out and educate the employers on all of these students that are available. By doing so, we actually bridge the gap of the students to the employers by offering Matching Days where these students actually get to interview five to eight different employers, and then they rank them for the ones that they’re most impressed with down to the ones that maybe they’re not quite as impressed with. And the employers do the same thing. They get to interview about five to eight students and the beauty of this is that they’re only interviewing the students who are interested in the jobs that they offer. So we don’t put a welder into a precision optics organization or we don’t put a quality assurance person into a welding position. We find out what the students’ interests are and then we match them up with employers that actually offer the jobs that those students are looking for.”

Coyne said the Matching Days is just the first step in the process. “Then we hold a Signing Day. A Signing Day is where the employers come, the school administrators come, the families come, and the students come and actually sign a contract for a job shadow as an 11th grader or an actual paid Co-Op as a 12th grader. It’s a huge celebration. It’s based upon the NFL Draft theme. There’s a lot of excitement. The kids get swag. They sign contracts with their employers and in many instances, it’s the start of their career.”

According to Coyne, students in their junior year of high school are the perfect candidates as are students who like to work with their hands and may not be sure that college is the right place for them after high school. Through the Finger Lakes Youth Apprenticeship Program students have an opportunity to gain real-world experience in technical trades such as CNC Machining, Precision Optics Technician, Electro-Mechanical Technician, Electronic Technician, Plant Maintenance Electrician, Maintenance Mechanic Automated Equipment,  Mold maker, Toolmaker, Industrial Manufacturing Technician, Manufacturing Engineering Technician, Quality Assurance Auditor, Welder, Plant Maintenance Pipefitter and Machine Builder.

The program also offers dual enrollment where students can earn credit from Monroe Community College while they are still in high school. All of this, said Coyne, is unique to Rochester. “I like to call it the ‘White Hot Dog’ of youth apprenticeship programs. You won’t go to Buffalo or Syracuse and find a program like this. We are the best-run and largest youth apprenticeship program in New York State to date. Many of the others are reaching out to us to find out what our model is like so they can mirror it. And so what we really do is we’ve got the cooperation of our community colleges, we’ve got the cooperation of our BOCES and our school systems, along with the employers and we’re just bridging the gap.”

For more information about the Finger Lakes Youth Apprenticeship Program, visit

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