In commemoration of National Social Work Month in March, the School of Social Work in Falk College will present its annual Dan and Mary Lou Rubenstein Social Justice Awards program from 6:30 to 8 p.m. Tuesday, March 19, in 200 White…
Graduating City of Syracuse Technical Students Connect With Facilities Staff in New Pilot Program
Ask recent Syracuse City School District (SCSD) graduate Marie Malkoske her favorite part about being on campus this spring, and she’ll tell you it was getting grease and dirt on her face.
For Malkoske, getting her hands—and face—dirty was just part of the job as she spent two mornings a week at the University’s Automotive Garage on Ainsley Drive, helping to service the fleet of more than 300 vehicles and over 100 pieces of equipment.
Malkoske was one of four seniors from the Institute of Technology at Syracuse Central (ITC) to participate in this first-of-its-kind job shadowing program at the University. Her budding automotive career started with a love of NASCAR, but she’s earned work experience through a pilot program partnering Syracuse University facilities staff with City of Syracuse career and technical education students.
“It was a lot of fun, and I learned a lot,” Malkoske says. “We don’t get to do live work at school so the program helped show me this is what I want to do.”
The pilot shadow program was designed to give graduating Syracuse City School District career and technical education (CTE) students ready to enter the workforce an opportunity to shadow facilities professionals in their day-to-day work.
In addition to Malkoske, Amgad Mohamed and Yovan Treteizo worked in the University’s Automotive Garage, and Abdunasir Adam worked in the welding and machine shop. For four weeks starting May 24, the students spent two mornings a week working side-by-side with Syracuse University facilities staff.
“The students were great,” says Rich Stach, supervisor of the Automotive Garage. “They asked questions and were enthusiastic.”
With few college students on campus, the facilities workers had more time to mentor program participants, and the ITC students were able to shadow larger maintenance projects that aren’t possible during the University’s academic year.
“Charlie was always there and explained everything going on,” says Malkoske, referring to Charlie Doupe, one of the Automotive Garage mechanics who worked closely with the students.
Students in the automotive shop used state-of-the-art ZEUS diagnostic tools to troubleshoot vehicles and assisted with changing breaks, oil changes and other vehicle maintenance. While they worked together, the Syracuse staffers were able to offer the students guidance on the best next steps to pursue their careers.
“A lot of the facilities staff members can see themselves in these students. They wish they had this opportunity as high school students,” says Craig Powers, a 17-year veteran of the University’s facilities team and Machine Shop supervisor. “There’s no degree or trade school for what we do in the Machine Shop. The trades are a lost art, and it is important to get these kids interested. It is great to pass on our knowledge.”
Powers’ 12-person team of machinists maintain and repair equipment across campus from vending machines to overhead doors and everything in between, including kitchen equipment in the dining centers and washers and dryers in the residence halls.
In the Machine Shop, ITC’s Adam rebuilt a commercial dishwashing machine at Ernie Davis Dining Center and worked on a 6-foot-tall mixing machine in the Commissary bakeshop.
Both Stach and Powers say their teams would gladly participate in the program again and look forward to having interns from SCSD join their teams this summer.
Building Bridges With the Syracuse Community
The pilot spring shadow program built on the success of last summer’s internship program, pairing SCSD high school students with facilities teams.
Cydney Johnson, vice president of community engagement and government relations, sits on the advisory board for the SCSD’s Career and Technical Education programs and has been the driving force building relationships with the district to develop new pathways to learning.
“We want every student to dream big,” Johnson says. “Not every kid wants to go to college. We can use the vast educational resources of Syracuse University to create hands-on experiences where work-bound students learn from professionals. We want students to go into their careers with their eyes wide open to the future.”
Herself an alumna of SCSD’s Nottingham High School, Johnson has been working to create opportunities for City of Syracuse students her entire career. She credits support from Vice Chancellor J. Michael Haynie, Vice President and Chief Facilities Officer Pete Sala, and Chris Coffer, executive director of the Office of Pre-College Programs, as the key to turning her ideas into new programs.
Once everyone was on board, community engagement team members Kate Flannery and Jake Losowski took the lead on logistics to get the pilot program off the ground. Cathy Bottari, associate director of labor relations at the University, was instrumental in determining where there was the most need at the University and where high school students could be given positive learning experiences without a lot of additional training. She also ensured that all staff who would be mentoring the high school students met the legal requirements to work with minors.
The community engagement team also worked closely with SCSD officials Nick Lisi and Maureen Sweeney from ITC to create a program to provide more real-world experience for students who would be entering the workforce this summer.
“The goal is to create more opportunities for 12th grade students who want to go straight into work,” Lisi says. “We’re looking at things five to seven years down the road, that’s where we can really build opportunities. We can see the JMA Wireless Dome from ITC’s front steps.”
Lisi wants to make sure students are looking to Syracuse University for well-paying job opportunities in addition to a college education.
Plans are already underway to continue this year’s job shadow program and potentially expand it to include a job shadowing session in January and a more hands-on job experience in May.
“I love that we’re giving local high school students an opportunity to see what a career in these technical fields really involves,” says Sala, who has been a strong proponent of outreach programs with CTE students. “I want to do whatever I can to encourage students to pursue trade professions and gain real world experience. By giving these students an opportunity to learn and work at Syracuse University, we’re also building connections with tomorrow’s workforce. Programs like this help us build a pipeline of talented professionals with in-demand skills that we can tap into when we have a job opening.”
This fall, Malkoske will head to Onondaga Community College to study automotive technology. The connections and experiences provided through the job shadow program helped confirm this was the right career path for her. She offers her fellow students thinking about technical careers this simple advice, “Go for it! Just go for it!”