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CenterState CEO, Canadian philanthropist partner on program to retain CNY college graduates

By Eric Reinhardt (


CenterState CEO says it has launched the Career Apprenticeship Initiative, which provides college graduates a chance to work with a regional company. The effort seeks to keep more college graduates in the region. (Adam Rombel / CNYBJ file photo)

SYRACUSE, N.Y. — CenterState CEO says it’s working with a Canadian philanthropist on a program that seeks to keep Central New York college graduates in the region to start their careers.

CenterState CEO is working with Alan Rottenberg, founder of the Canadian Career Apprenticeship Initiative, and the Kingston Economic Development Corporation (KEDCO) on the program called the Career Apprenticeship Initiative (CAI).

The pilot program offers Central New York graduates a one-year apprenticeship with regional employers, with a focus on liberal-arts graduates. Employers are offered a $7,500 salary reimbursement for agreeing to hire and train the student for a year. Thus far, the initiative has brought together six employers and students, with plans to continue the program in the next year.

Syracuse is the first pilot of the program in the U.S., CenterState CEO noted.

It is modeled on a similar program, funded by the Canadian Career Apprenticeship Initiative, which has operated successfully in Canada for several years. The Canadian program model has shown that participating cities retain “motivated, competent, and capable” university graduates who might otherwise depart for bigger cities in search of work.

“This region is a major producer of college educated graduates — there are approximately 140,000 students who attend college here every year (1 in every 10 CNY residents is a college student), with students coming from all over the world to attend college here. However, most of them leave after graduation, despite the significant level of employment opportunities here,” Robert Simpson, president of CenterState CEO, said. “With Micron and its suppliers soon to join our community, and nearly 7,000 professional and technical opportunities from over 240 employers listed on The Good Life CNY website (the highest it’s ever been), it’s imperative we find new, creative ways of sourcing the talent our employers need.”

The employers participating in the pilot program this year include Excellus BlueCross BlueShield, INFICON, American Food & Vending, SUNY Upstate Medical University, Syracuse Housing Authority, and Community Bank.

“Liberal arts graduates are often overlooked by employers. These students pursued their passion in college and learned skills through creative expression, but often struggle at the critical juncture between school and finding a pathway to a career,” Rottenberg said in the CenterState CEO release. “Many can remain unemployed, or underemployed for months or years post-graduation and ultimately leave communities looking for more opportunities in large centers. However, we have found that 90% of the participants who successfully complete the apprenticeship are retained by their employers, and the graduates stay in the communities after the apprenticeship ends.”


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