Orange County Partnership - News

Workforce Development Offerings at SUNY Orange Expand to Key Growth Sectors

A critical facet of a region’s economic future is preparing its youth for the emerging occupations now and in the future. Recently, SUNY Orange announced key initiatives that will expand its offerings that will prepare young students for jobs with e-commerce giant Amazon, the state’s fledgling cannabis sector and the county’s growing food, beverage and hospitality sectors.


On Sept. 20, SUNY Orange announced it had become the latest community college within the State University of New York (SUNY) to be selected as an education partner for Amazon’s Career Choice program, providing Amazon’s hourly employees access to the College’s full array of degree and certificate programs.


Amazon’s Career Choice program is an education benefit that empowers employees to learn new skills for career success at Amazon or elsewhere. The program meets individual learners where they are on their education journey through a variety of education and upskilling opportunities, including pre-paid college tuition, industry certifications designed to lead to in-demand jobs, and foundational skills such as English language proficiency, high school diplomas, and GEDs. In the U.S., Amazon is investing $1.2 billion to upskill more than 300,000 employees by the year 2025 to help move them into higher-paying, in-demand jobs.


SUNY Orange offers more than 40 degree and certificate programs housed within seven academic communities: Arts and Media; Business; Culture, Society and the Mind; Education and Human Services; Health Sciences and Wellness; Justice and Community Engagement; and Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM).


“Many residents in Orange County and beyond are looking for convenient ways to access to high-quality, affordable higher education without incurring significant debt, and Amazon’s Career Choice program is an excellent opportunity for Amazon employees to take college credits while they are working,” said Dr. Kristine Young, SUNY Orange president. “I appreciate that Amazon recognizes the value of a SUNY Orange degree to its employees in the Hudson Valley, and that we’ve been selected in New York State for the Career Choice College Track. Amazon is supporting its employees with pre-paid tuition and so this partnership makes great sense for all involved. I look forward to the College and Amazon collaborating closely on other training, certification and educational programming that will mesh with the Pathways and Foundations tracks within the broader Career Choice program.”


SUNY Orange is working to reshape the student experience through strategic approaches to improving support services, successful acquisition of transformational federal and state grants, and blending the best elements of Guided Pathways principles with the college’s strengths. Being selected for Amazon’s Career Choice program is yet another step in the college’s innovative implementation of its Strategic Plan that is designed for the college to empower student success, strengthen the region’s economic future, and sustain and invigorate its own future, SUNY Orange officials stated.


Additionally, Dr. Young and her team are identifying ways SUNY Orange can create new and targeted workforce training partnerships across a variety of business sectors that are generating pipelines of talented and skilled employees while also sparking economic development within Orange County.


Amazon’s Career Choice program has a rigorous selection process for third-party partner educators, choosing partners that are focused on helping employees through their education programs, assisting them with job placements, and overall offering education that leads to career success.


“We are thrilled to have SUNY Orange join us as an education partner for Career Choice, adding to the hundreds of best-in-class offerings available to our employees in the Hudson Valley,” said Carley Graham Garcia, Amazon’s head of community affairs for Amazon in New York. “We believe in empowering our employees by providing them access to the education and training they need to grow their careers, whether that’s with us or elsewhere. We have intentionally created a partner network of third-party educators and employers who are committed to providing excellent education, job placement resources, and continuous improvements to the experience. To date, more than 80,000 Amazon employees around the world have already participated in Career Choice and we’ve seen first-hand how it can transform their lives.”


For more information on Amazon’s Career Choice, visit: or


SUNY Orange Serving as Lead Campus in New Cannabis Program Offering


Some great news for workforce development in Orange County. Recently, New York Gov. Kathy Hochul announced that SUNY and CUNY community colleges will receive $5 million in funding to support the creation or enhancement of short-term credential programs or course offerings that provide pathways to employment in the cannabis industry.


SUNY Orange will receive $1 million to serve as lead campus with partners: Dutchess Community College, Rockland Community College, Sullivan County Community College, Ulster County Community College and Westchester Community College. The program is estimated to include more than 200 participants.


The funding supports programs that will create or enhance non-degree and degree-eligible courses and programs, stackable credentials, and/or micro credentials that quickly address local employer skill needs within the cannabis sector, a projected multi-billion-dollar industry with tens of thousands of jobs. Selected campuses must also partner with local employers in the cannabis industry and receive their input on curriculum development.


“New York's new cannabis industry is creating exciting opportunities, and we will ensure that New Yorkers who want careers in this growing sector have the quality training they need to be successful,” Gov. Hochul said. “Diversity and inclusion are what makes New York's workforce a competitive, powerful asset, and we will continue to take concrete steps to help ensure everyone has the opportunity to participate in the cannabis industry.”


The New York State Department of Labor and the Office of Cannabis Management will support efforts to expand learning opportunities by helping to connect businesses and job seekers to these essential training programs. Upon completion, the department will help candidates complete resumes, prepare for job interviews and provide regional job leads. Each awarded campus or consortium of campuses will be supported by start-up funds for a three-year period.  


Office of Cannabis Management Executive Director Chris Alexander said, “Legal cannabis in New York means cannabis opportunities for New Yorkers. It's wonderful to see community colleges across the SUNY and CUNY systems help their students develop the skills necessary to be players in this burgeoning industry. This is an excellent step towards helping New York's cannabis industry grow.”



FoodTEC Workforce Training Program at SUNY Orange Selects Leader


SUNY Orange President Dr. Kristine Young recently announced the appointment of Jhack Sepulveda as Executive Director of Orange County FoodTEC, a newly created not-for-profit that will align with the college to provide workforce training and related skills programming in support of the region’s growing food, beverage and hospitality sectors.


Sepulveda, who has 15 years of experience in food and nutrition industries within the private sector, will organize, develop and implement FoodTEC’s Workforce and Skills initiative. Much of his prior experience has been focused on providing the food manufacturing, retail food service and hospitality industries with customized quality assurance services.


As early as this fall, Young and Sepulveda expect FoodTEC will kick off a small array of workforce solutions offerings with more programming to ramp up in the spring. FoodTEC will focus on supporting workforce development opportunities that assist low-income job seekers and workers in obtaining and advancing in jobs that provide sustaining wages and benefits. It will also aid in the economic development of Orange County and its surrounding areas. FoodTEC will use the college’s Tower Building on its Newburgh campus as a training and education hub for employers and employees in Orange County and the Hudson Valley, as well as private sector companies.


In aligning with the college’s Strategic Plan 2020-2025, most of FoodTEC’s programming will be designed to strengthen the region’s economic future by expanding workforce development in emerging innovative fields while also identifying and addressing the needs of an increasingly diverse regional population and workforce,


“FoodTEC will aim to support economic growth in Orange County, and in particular among area residents, the business community and our SUNY Orange student body,” Sepulveda said. “I plan to engage with many community and business partners to identify service opportunities, programs, activities and partnerships that will enhance the workforce and skill development training and education programming that we will develop in response to the region’s needs.”


For more information, contact Sepulveda at (845) 341-9518 or at