News & Press Releases
Advanced Manufacturing Initiative Praised by DOL - 10.23.12
Advanced Manufacturing Initiative Recieves Praise from Dept. of Labor
"Manufacturing creates wealth," said the U.S. Department of Labor's assistant secretary for the Employment and Training Administration, Jane Oates.
She checked in Friday at Nashua Community College on progress made statewide under a $19.9 million federal Trade Adjustment Assistance Community College and Career Training grant awarded to Great Bay Community College in Portsmouth, N.H., and the six other colleges in the Community College System of New Hampshire.
"Health care, education - they're great, but manufacturing simply creates more wealth," she said. "We need to make sure we keep it out front."
William "Rick" Holka, president of Omni Components Corp. in Hudson, agreed.
"There's nothing we touch every day that hasn't been machined," he said, adding the community colleges have made "absolutely fantastic advances in infrastructure" under the grant for their advanced manufacturing programs.
During her visit, Oates toured NCC's advanced manufacturing laboratory and met with school officials, advanced manufacturing business leaders and students positively impacted by the community college system.
A newly renovated teaching laboratory, its floors quite literally sparkling underneath state-of-the-art computer-controlled precision machining equipment, was called not only proof of the early success of an educational partnership between local manufacturers and the school consortium, but also evidence to support a stigma-busting mission taken on by the colleges on behalf of the industry.
For one, advanced manufacturing is healthy in New Hampshire, representing nearly 20% of the state's entire economy, according to the N.H. Center for Public Policy Studies. In fact, employers poised for growth said a main challenge they face is not a lack of demand, but a shortage of qualified applicants for high-tech, high skill jobs. Reasons for the shortage are varied, but two main concerns of employers and the community colleges are a misperception that manufacturing is an unstable industry of repetitive, low-skill jobs and low enrollment in core science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) academic programming.
Contrary to beliefs, Oates said, "It's not enough to have a strong body. You need a strong mind and a skilled hand."
James Jacobs, president of Rapid Machining, said of his 27,000-square-foot facility with more than 20 computer numerical controlled milling and turning centers, "It's not a dark, oily, dirty place; it's a high-tech environment, it's a good wage."
Mark Dodge, associate professor for advanced manufacturing tool technology at NCC, said during an interview with Amanda Loder of NHPR's StateImpact, "Our grads can expect between $14 and $15 an hour to start. A good machinist could go to $30 or $35 an hour. Typically, there's overtime - five to 10 hours a week - so even at $15 an hour, that's a pretty substantial paycheck for a beginning ... job. For an experienced machinist, $80,000 to $100,000 is not out of the questions for a year's pay."
"As we continue to expand," Jacobs said, "the ability to hire CNC machinists with the right skills will be critical to our success."
Jacobs said partnering with community colleges in the state will help ensure a pool of qualified machinists will be available in the future.
Said Holka, "If you can do precision machining, we are hiring." He added he had seven to eight jobs he'd fill today if applicants qualified to operate his Swiss-type machining equipment were available.
Omni manufactures products for the medical, aerospace, optical, communications, electronics, instrumentation and commercial high-tech markets.
Oates called the qualified-employee shortage "a national crisis."
"You can't wait," she said to the employers seeking qualified applicants. "We need to make sure everyone's working together to eliminate the workforce slowdown. It's amazing; you could grow if you (just) had the people."
And that, in Oates' view, is the importance of the grant. She said community college training programs were in need of a paradigm change. The new measure for success would need to be employment and, thus, employer input would need to be a central part of an updated and expanded advanced manufacturing curriculum.
Congress agreed, and in 2010, President Obama signed off on $2 billion to be used over four years for the nationwide TAACCCT grant program.
The payoffs are already obvious, she said, citing examples in which community college initiatives have benefited entities from large manufacturers like Pratt & Whitney, Toyota North America and Johnson & Johnson to individual students like Orlando Morales, who is working full time for Rapid Machining while enrolled in advanced manufacturing program at NCC.
Morales said he'd been working retail jobs for years when he decided he wanted something more. With the support of his wife, he enrolled in the CNC program at NCC and took part in a tour of Rapid Machining.
Now, Jacobs jokes Morales is "not going anywhere," as he's a valued employee who came to the company already prepared with skills necessary for success.
"The math classes were valuable," Morales said about the education he's receiving at NCC. "It'd been eight years since I'd been in (advanced) math, and it refreshed my memory."
When he started at Rapid, Morales said, the work was exactly the type he'd been trained for in the community college system.
"What you said made me jump up and down - that (businesses) were doing exactly the same thing outside" the schools," said Oates. "That's what we're working for (with this grant); we aim to have 95 percent of students ready to go straight into a job."
The seven community colleges in the New Hampshire consortium are designing and implementing expanded programs in advanced materials (composites, aerospace) manufacturing technologies, mechatronics and automation/robotics, precision welding, advanced machine tool technology, energy systems for precision manufacturing, and advanced manufacturing processes and controls.
Offerings run the gamut from fast-track job preparation and certification services from WorkReadyNH, to short course and certification programs, to full associate's degree educational tracks.
As part of the grant, state-of-the-art equipment and technology upgrades are being made at colleges across the state, with direct input from regional manufacturers who will be relying upon the program to help create a qualified workforce for hiring.
While progress is quickly being made at all sites, NCC had a leg up, according to its president, Lucille Jordan.
"When other colleges were closing their machining programs, we never did," she said. "We were ready to run as soon as we got the grant."
Other advanced manufacturing program milestones on the horizon include the opening of Great Bay Community College's Advanced Technology and Academic Center in Rochester, which will educate and train students in composites manufacturing ahead of the opening of a 340,000-square-foot production facility being built in that city by Safran Aerospace Composites and Albany Engineered Composites. The project is expected to generate more than 400 jobs.
At Manchester Community College, computer and machining equipment is purchased and ready to be installed in a newly renovated student laboratory as the school works to expand its advanced manufacturing courses and course types.
For more information about the advanced manufacturing initiative of the Community College of New Hampshire consortium, contact marketing coordinator Desiree Crossley at 603-427-7733 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.