The ultimate goal is to connect students with opportunities in Central New York
By Deborah Jeanne Sergeant
Helping young people find their purpose in life comes naturally to Taylor Hodge. Her recent appointment as a workforce development specialist at Partners for Education & Business, Inc., an affiliate of Manufacturers Association of Central New York, Inc., seems an ideal fit. In her new role, Taylor promotes the organization to educators and employers.
Taylor grew up in Theresa, north of Watertown. She selected Cazenovia College to further her education because “when I stepped on the campus, I was in love with it,” Taylor said.
She studied inclusive elementary education and enjoyed her student teaching experience. After graduation in 2013, she attended graduate school at SUNY Potsdam and discovered the satisfaction of helping with college students. She began substitute teaching and ended up moving back to Cazenovia to fill a new position, operations coordinator for the Center of Career and Extended Learning.
During her six years in that role, she worked with offsite programs, helping students figure out how to fit college into their lives. Family responsibilities and working full-time can create barriers to higher education for adult students.
“What we’d do is offer the second half of the bachelor’s degree to adult students in a convenient way like evenings,” Taylor said. “It creates opportunities for students they’d never have otherwise.”
Her caseload of 70 to 80 student advisees were all part-time students.
Taylor’s second experience at Cazenovia College helped her see the exodus of students from the area, juxtaposing the plight of local employers lacking qualified employees. She saw the opportunity at MACNY as a way to recruit quality workers from CNY to fill these needs. She also relished the idea of staying in Central New York.
“My husband and I are both very happy in this area and I want to do work that’s important to me in our own back yard,” Taylor said. “I’ve spent a total of 10 years — that’s a third of my life — and most of my adult life in Cazenovia. I love Caz. I think being able to have a new experience, being able to step outside my comfort zone and learn and grow is important to me.
“By going to MACNY, I have that opportunity to develop myself as a professional. The more I invest in myself the better I am to serve the students.”
As part of her role, she engages companies in support of two of the organization’s P-tech programs, Auburn School District and Institute of Technology within the Syracuse City School District.
P-tech is a worldwide initiative that helps high school students develop employment-oriented skills.
Taylor plans facility tours, makes students aware of internship opportunities and organizes STEM events.
“The ultimate goal is to connect students with opportunities in Central New York,” Taylor said. “We’re building our future workforce.”
She believes that her teaching education and experience helped her become more comfortable with public speaking, knowledgeable about education and better equipped to work with high school students.
“There’s a lot going on, a lot of different projects,” she said. “You get pulled in a lot of different directions. Where I came from has prepared me, being able to prioritize and to be able to get everything that needs to get done, done. I am enjoying where I am with Partners for Education and MACNY. It’s an incredible support system.”
MACNY and Partners for Education are beginning a collaboration with Le Moyne College’s ERIE21. Taylor will serve on an advisory committee. ERIE21 provides intervention as early as middle school through high school to encourage young people in technology and engineering careers.
“It’s most rewarding to do this work because I’m helping create equitable pathways and connect students to jobs that need filling right here in our community,” she said. “It’s helping our MACNY member companies. It’s such an exciting time because our community has opportunities for growth.”
Taylor and her husband, Justin, have two dogs, Easton and Penny. They live in Manlius.