SUNY JCC Awarding Erick Laine Career Exploration Opportunities to Area Residents


OLEAN, N.Y. – At the height of his tenure as Alcas CEO, Erick Laine was a staunch supporter of SUNY Jamestown Community College. Perhaps his greatest contribution to the college was serving as a driving force and chairman of a capital campaign that helped JCC build a campus in downtown Olean, N.Y.

Laine died in December at the age of 87, but his advocacy for JCC lives on. Laine’s family recently gifted the college approximately half a million dollars from his estate to support students seeking education and employment opportunities in the region.

One portion of the funding will be used for what is aptly called the Erick Laine CEO (Career Exploration Opportunity) Award program. It is designed to help people in transition who may not be sure what they want to do next.

Holger Ekanger, JCC’s Workforce Readiness vice president, said a pilot of the program is scheduled to begin this fall with 10 individuals from Cattaraugus and Allegany counties being paired with area employers for 10 weeks and 135 hours of paid activities that include on-the-job training.

The setup is advantageous for both local businesses who are short-handed and individuals who want to learn more about the everyday life of a job — while being compensated $15 an hour — before committing to education and training.

Those interested in applying to be a part of the Erick Laine CEO Award pilot program can do so at

“If someone has an interest and has always been fascinated about a particular industry and what a career could be like, this gives us an opportunity to match up an individual with an employer in those industries,” Ekanger said. “Let’s say you wanted to get into manufacturing, but you had no idea what manufacturing was all about, what careers there are, and what training and education you need. You just want to get in and get a sense of what it looks like. Before you decide to do any training and further education, you have the opportunity to figure out what it’s all about.”

Ekanger said individuals in the pilot program can explore opportunities in any industry sector to include manufacturing, healthcare, business, or hospitality and tourism.

The program, Ekanger said, is built for graduating high school students who are undecided on a career path, college students, underemployed adults, and college graduates seeking a career change. Ekanger envisions a scenario where the individual works part-time and goes to school part-time for further education following the exploration program.

“As we are moving into more flexible ways to deliver education and training, this is a way to get people connected and excited about a career,” Ekanger said. “It incentivizes the company by giving them an opportunity to build relationships with potential employees.”

During a recent visit to the Great Lakes Cheese plant in Allegany County, the company told Ekanger they would be interested in participating in the pilot.

In addition to on-the-job training, individuals may also be exposed to career readiness seminars, work and class tours, and help with resume and cover letter writing.

JCC’s “role is finding the individual and finding the respective partners and fleshing out the details of what that experience should look like,” Ekanger said. “We need to make a connection between people and the company and help shape what the experience should be and how we pay the individual. We will manage all of those components.”

Contact the program coordinator, Samantha Testani, with any questions at [email protected] or 716-376-7568.

Applications received by Sept. 3 will take priority, however, applications will be accepted through Sept. 10.

Ekanger said money from Laine’s estate is being directed to a handful of local organizations, with some of the initiatives connected.

One is the Laine Business Accelerator, a program that will provide five Cattaraugus County businesses funding, coaching, and mentoring to boost their operations.