B.R. Johnson, LLC Supports Workforce Development in Local Schools

By: Joel LaPuma

Ask a manager at any construction or manufacturing business in New York State and they’ll tell you that one of the biggest challenges is finding young employees. Attracting new trade graduates is urgent in the face of an aging workforce, but lack of awareness of these industries has created a lack of new students. One of the best ways to create this awareness, and corresponding graduates, is by implementing trade education in high school.

Recognizing this need, businesses like B.R. Johnson, LLC have invested in Career & Technical Education (CTE) Pathways programs at schools, which help students achieve the training and certification needed to begin a trade career. The company’s recent partnership with the Syracuse City School District (SCSD) is the next step in its ongoing commitment to building the next generation of skilled trade employees.

B.R. Johnson is a distributor and installer of commercial windows, doors, and hardware, as well as specialty building products. In its fourth generation of ownership, the company is “always looking for ways to strengthen our business as well as others through creative partnerships,” says Tom Resch, General Manager of the Commercial Door Frame and Hardware Business Line. It was Resch who spotted the opportunities CTE programs could create for B.R. Johnson during a tour of the Onondaga-Cortland-Madison Counties BOCES facility: 

“The welding programs instructor was extremely receptive to the idea of collaborating with us for internships [and] post education job placement, and we were equally excited for them to tour our facility, work on our material in the classroom and let our welders visit the classroom to speak to real world practices.” This relationship proved so beneficial that Resch joined the BOCES CTE advisory committee.

The BOCES CTE Pathways program has already helped B.R. Johnson grow its workforce: the company hired Jordan Simon, a BOCES graduate, as a welder for its Buffalo location, and she has “done well right out of the gate,” according to Resch, which “shows the promise of looking to programs like this for employees.” The experience has been valuable for Jordan, who has even accompanied Resch to classroom visits at BOCES to “share how she’s using what she learned in the workplace.” Of her CTE program experience, Jordan says, “Welding has opened up amazing opportunities for me…  The welding program really helped boost my confidence in my capabilities.”

There’s evidence this is a common experience for students in CTE programs. “[T]hese programs are reducing missed school days and are helping to raise graduation rates,” says Resch. The CTE Pathways programs have been so successful the district has begun introducing them to students as early as the 8th grade. Resch says the company plans on expanding its involvement with the SCSD program by “continuing to sit on advisory committees, sharing with business partners the existence and importance of these programs as well as lending other time and resources.”

Resch views this involvement as not only an investment in B.R. Johnson, but in the community. “Being a resident of the City of Syracuse I see great opportunity for both the community and the students,” he says. “After all, the students are our community… If we really want Syracuse to flourish, we need to pay attention to the workforce needs and how to best set up our students for success three, four and five years down the road. That is exactly what this program aims to do.”