by Bob Keyes
ROCHESTER, NH – Great Bay Community College adjusts its academic programs to reflect changes in the job market and the needs of employers in the Northeast. Great Bay responds to trends in industry by forming partnerships with the companies that hire Great Bay graduates, creating career pathways that begin in the classroom and lead to jobs in advanced manufacturing plants across the region.
Partnerships with local industry are critical in teaching the skills necessary to fill specialized jobs in a variety of evolving fields, said Debra Mattson, who designs the curriculum for Great Bay’s Advanced Materials Manufacturing Program. She works closely with companies and subject matter experts to ensure Great Bay graduates receive current and relevant training and have access to equipment and technologies they will use on the job.
“Feedback from employers and graduates allows us to constantly improve and to be sure we are keeping the curriculum current as jobs evolve,” Mattson said. Sometimes that means working with equipment donated by regional manufacturers so students can learn on sophisticated machinery they are likely to encounter after they graduate. In December, Laser Projection Technologies of Londonderry, N.H., donated a laser projector used in aerospace and other advanced manufacturing industries. A compact, yellow box-like structure, the projector hangs from the ceiling in a spacious, bright industrial lab in the Advanced Technology & Academic Center.
Specialists from Laser Projection Technologies are training Great Bay instructors on the equipment. Eventually, every student going through the Advanced Composites Manufacturing certificate program will use the projector. It helps place fabric onto a complex mold for maximum efficiency. “We are currently ramping up to the point where we will have more than 100 students per year. Each will be introduced to laser technology as it is used in industry,” Mattson said.
In other cases, GBCC faculty are allowed to observe technicians on the job .“By visiting job sites faculty can adjust curriculum to address changes and be sure our students have the depth of knowledge to be successful” said Mattson.
Once Great Bay’s ACM graduates are employed, they may also choose to continue to take courses at the College to further prepare them for career advancement. “Our relationship with students and employers does not have to end once a graduate is hired” said Mattson. “We continuously work with industry to identify and develop a series of courses that support advancement along the graduate’s career pathway. A student hired at BAE Systems in Merrimack can continue with courses at Great Bay in composites to increase their ability to perform additional responsibilities as a Composites Technician. Others working at companies like Safran and Albany may take courses in leadership to advance in a supervisory role or technical courses towards a career in maybe metrology or nondestructive testing.” Students working as CNC operators may continue to take courses in quality inspection, advanced CNC, or supervisory skills, working towards an associate degree in technical studies. While continuing their education they are getting valuable job training to support a higher level position.”
This fall, Mattson hopes to offer courses in the field of nondestructive testing (NDT). Nondestructive testing is used in science and industry to test and analyze the properties of a material to ensure safety without damaging that material. It is used in several engineering specialties, including forensic, mechanical and electrical, and in aeronautics, medicine and art.
The NDT course is in direct response to employers asking for more qualified workers and training. “Until now companies have had to send employees out of state for training.” Mattson said. “Right now we are working with local companies including GE Aviation, Parker Hannifin, Hitchiner Manufacturing and Turbocam to assure their training needs are met. Advanced Manufacturing is a growing as the use of complex machinery and requirements for lighter and stronger materials increases as well as the demand for greater safety. We’re here to provide the knowledge and skills.”