Building a Skilled Workforce for our Region
Fifteen-year-old Justin Duprey doesn’t know what he wants to do after high school. Maybe travel, maybe open a coffee shop. A rising junior who lives in Saranac Lake, he likes how beautiful and laid back it is around here. This summer, he got his first job. He said he wanted to earn some money, didn’t have anything else to do, and was ready to give it a try, thanks in large part to the SWIPE program.
SWIPE, which stands for School to Work Initiative through Practical Experience, aims to help local high school students in Saranac Lake and Lake Placid explore career opportunities in their own backyards. It is partnering with schools and businesses to build skills and open doors primarily in the tourism industry. Patricia Preston, a retired teacher, and Jenn Webb, General Manager of the Golden Arrow Resort in Lake Placid, launched the program this spring, attracting more than a dozen students right off the bat.
SWIPE provides work and interview experience, introduces students to industry professionals, and offers field trips. Along the way, the instructors impart a sense of pride for their community, foster a strong work ethic, and raise awareness about career advancement opportunities. While Justin points out that he got his table-busing job at the Crowne Plaza on his own, he also says that SWIPE was a big help. He said SWIPE gives him an “extra leg” and he appreciates how the program checks in with him.
Meanwhile, on any given day, ETS Staffing and Recruiting, based in Plattsburgh, has more than 100 openings to fill in manufacturing alone. President and CEO Deb Cleary says there are not enough skilled candidates to fill the jobs – despite opportunities for steady income and professional development. Not one to sit idly by when she sees a problem, Deb established Ready4Real, a nonprofit serving as a bridge between education and successful employment.
The program was piloted this spring in four high schools in Clinton and Franklin counties and will expand in the fall to Essex County. The areas of skill-building that Ready4Real focuses on are not math or science or coding, but communication, emotional intelligence, situational judgment, financial literacy, and other essential skills that build confidence and increase employability.
With the unemployment rate for people between the ages of 16 and 24 at 29% in Franklin County, 20% in Essex County, and 12% in Clinton County, helping young people see the possibility of living, working, and thriving in their home is more important than ever. We applaud the initiative behind Ready4Real and SWIPE and are proud to support each with seed funding through Generous Acts at Adirondack Foundation – it’s only the beginning of engaging and empowering young people like Justin across the region.