As the North Country experiences unprecedented growth in the industrial sector, and unemployment rates throughout the region, state, and country drop to historic lows, the workforce gap continues to increase. Help wanted signs flap in the wind at retail malls, restaurants and industrial parks, while the local workforce struggles to meet hiring demands.
To fill the entry-level labor gap, Coryer Staffing has launched a structured, disciplined work experience program for new high school graduates. RAMP (Ready, Able, Marketable, Proven) by Coryer Staffing is the full-time post-grad work experience program that enables recent graduates to gain meaningful employment in the sectors that predominate North Country industry.
RAMP offers an answer to the labor gap, funneling recent high school graduates into the assembly, manufacturing and warehousing/logistics sectors on a four-month cycle, with flexibility built into the program to accommodate both the fresh new workforce and the desires of industry.
WHERE IS THE LABOR POOL COMING FROM?
That’s the question everyone in the industrial sector continues to ask. After the fanfare of each new company breaking ground comes the effort to attract the most talented people to its workforce.
Human resources departments often rely on staffing agencies to do the hustle for them and they rightfully expect quality candidates, quickly. “Our clients are world-class companies seeking the best and brightest talent. As a staffing agency, we believe that by providing opportunity and direction to the recent graduates in our community we are helping to build the talent pool so many companies are seeking. RAMP is a win-win for both the participants we support and client companies we serve,” explained David Coryer, COO of Coryer Staffing.
Coryer is an ideas guy who has been dreaming of a program like RAMP for 20 years. “Let’s build a program that better attracts indi- viduals to the industrial sector!” he emphasized. “Recent graduates need meaningful employment and companies need the help! I know together we can do this!”
You can’t argue with Coryer’s enthusiasm. And the data is there to back it up. According to the 2017 New York State of the Workforce Report, the young adult unemployment rate is more than double the state rate of 4.6 percent (In Clinton County is 4.5 percent).
A NEW GAP YEAR
Early in her career, Coryer Staffing’s CEO Elizabeth Goerlitz-Coryer was a Spanish teacher at two of the nation’s leading private schools. There, she saw many privileged and talented youth take a postgrad- uate or gap year before moving on from high school to college.
“A lot of high school graduates just aren’t ready to go directly into college,” she observed. “So much growth happens in that first year after high school. We envision our RAMP program being another option for young men and women who need that extra time before deciding whether to continue their education.”
There is a mutual sentiment among high school guidance counselors throughout the North Country— they wish they could follow a portion of their graduating seniors out the door for just one more year of academic, career and life guidance. Of the hundreds of seniors who graduate from the 17 school districts within the Champlain Valley Educational Services region each year, guidance counselors estimate that at least one third are non-college bound with no real plans after graduation.
Claire Cantwell-Jones, career counselor at Peru High School said, “Our reach is limited to grade 12, and once these students leave school, we lose touch with them. For a certain sector of students, they need additional structure and support, and an adult touch- stone is key. That’s why all the counselors in the region are so excited about RAMP.”
THE PILOT PROGRAM
In conjunction with Mold-Rite Plastics, and encouraged by several eager industrial partners, RAMP by Coryer Staffing kicked off its pilot program in July with a day-long orientation at Clinton Community College. The event included a tour of the college’s Institute for Advanced Manufacturing conducted by Steve Frederick, VP for Institutional Advancement and presentations by Mold-Rite senior staff members.
“Our thought process is that RAMP gives young adults a good opportunity to gain experience and earn a paycheck while they determine their long-term plan in life,” Coryer explained. “They are learning to work as part of a team, to take direction, meet daily goals, and man- age their time. These are all valuable lessons for a solid foundation throughout the rest of their careers, whether they stay in manufacturing or decide they never want to do it again.”
As RAMP’s first client partner, Mold-Rite stepped up to the plate with the understanding that the program is intended to give its participants a broad experience of career opportunities. And although he would happily hire each RAMP employee full-time, Eric Zeisloft, Vice President of Operations, gets the big picture. “We are very excited to be included in this start-up program. The RAMP participants are already an instrumental part of our production process,” he said.
So far, the program is a success, with the RAMP group working 99 percent of available hours, quickly dispelling the notion that this demographic doesn’t have the desired work ethic. “RAMP participants show up, on time and ready to work,” Coryer said.
A DEEPER INVESTMENT
Simply attracting and placing recent graduates in jobs at local employers isn’t a full solution to the many challenges that companies face. Turnover costs millions of dollars each year. For young adults, some- times just showing up for work can be intimidating, let alone navigating other distractions and life challenges.
The RAMP team recognized there needs to be a support system in place to prevent recent graduates from getting sucked into the turn- over machine and spit out on the other side with a resume that lists half a dozen jobs by the time they’ve worked even a few short years. That’s where career counselor Kevin Patnode comes in. Patnode’s unique position has been developed to guide RAMP participants through their first year of meaningful employment, to provide structure and even discipline when needed, to motivate and cultivate the work muscle that is necessary to be a productive member of society, and to help RAMP participants avoid the inevitable bad habits that can be picked up during several years of intermittent work.
“It’s not enough to cheerlead,” said Coryer. “We need to move the needle and that calls for a deeper investment in these peoples’ lives. The success of the program is as much a result of the intervention as it is having the opportunity to succeed. With guidance, support and encouragement we are seeing them get up and go to work every day, 12-hour shifts no less, and not only get the experience but be valu- able employees. It’s just wonderful.”
A SUPPORT TEAM
There isn’t an individual in the North Country with a more well- rounded background to be a career counselor than Kevin Patnode who taught history at Au Sable Valley Central School for 27 years. For 20 of those years, he simultaneously served as town justice in the Town of Plattsburgh where he handled a daunting 180,000+ cases. Before that, he managed Grand Union grocery stores in Plattsburgh and Glens Falls for a decade.
Patnode said, “The RAMP program by Coryer Staffing has the capacity to change the face of the North Country economically. More and more businesses will relocate here knowing there is a ready, able, marketable, proven workforce.”
Patnode’s caring and even-handed expertise have been called into action beyond the RAMP program as well, assisting traditional candidates in times of need. “Kevin brings a much-needed service that is enhancing professional behavior and communication at all levels within the industry,” said Goerlitz-Coryer.
Another new addition to the Coryer Staffing team is RAMP coordinator Andee Boire. Aside from easily relating to the RAMP participants (She’s only four years out of high school herself!), she is an integral part of the program’s payroll and HR management.
“RAMP by Coryer Staffing gives local high school graduates the opportunity to work for world-class companies that they often don’t even know exist in their own backyards, to learn from the professionals who run them and to prove that with structure and support, they can be a part of the answer to the labor gap in the North Country,” concluded Goerlitz-Coryer.