The Mohawk Valley has recently been branding itself as a high-tech hub. Many areas in the nation are doing the same thing, but they can't find workers with the right skills. Now there's a bill in Washington to shrink that gap. YNN's Andrew Sorensen explains the bill and the industry behind it that could put thousands of people back to work.
UTICA, N.Y. -- On a cold, snowy day at Mohawk Valley Community College, Mark McLaughlin is thinking up a hot new idea.
"The same bikes that everyone's using today, currently, are based off of a 100 year old design," he said.
He's on a mission to build a new type of ultra-fast bicycle that uses your whole body.
"Both your arms, both your legs, but everything can be independent or all together as well," McLaughlin said.
He wouldn't show us the prototype, but he hopes his start-up can sell millions of bikes.
"I needed to understand how machining works to build the bike, how to read blueprints, how to write blueprints," he explained.
So he came to MVCC for a Mechanical Engineering Certificate, something he says others will need to work for him.
"Putting somebody who doesn't know how to use these machines on them is pretty much likely to kill them," said McLaughlin.
But there aren't enough people with that training. According to a 2011 report, there were 600,000 open jobs nationwide that required high-tech manufacturing skills.
Sayed Akhavi, Dean of McLaughlin's program, is trying to fill those jobs.
"There is a need for learning programs and operating new and advanced machines," Akhavi said.
Nearby is a CNC mill machine. It costs about $150,000 on the open market and professors here say it can take up to a year just to become proficient at using it, but they say once you are, you can do just about anything you want with it. So it's useful, but expensive.
"Funding definitely helps us to bring the equipment and expose our students to the latest technologies that are available," Akhavi said.
That's why Senator Charles Schumer was at MVCC promoting the America Works Act.
"Those companies develop a standard, and then money is given to community colleges to help them meet those standards," he said.
It's similar to a grant program he championed.
Schumer explained, "MVCC received close to $400,000 to do this, but we want them to receive millions of dollars."
And hopefully put thousands back to work.
Senator Schumer says the bill will be paid for by eliminating three outdated workforce programs. He says the program will likely give tens of millions of dollars to schools nationwide.