ROCHESTER – A number of New Hampshire’s high-tech manufacturers are able to look positively towards growth and sustainability thanks to Great Bay Community College’s Advanced Technology & Academic Center in Rochester.
The campus trains the highly-skilled workforce that companies like Safran Aerospace Composites depends on to remain at the forefront of composite technology.
“We would not be where we are today without Great Bay,” said Sean Hoeing, organizational development specialist at Safran. He spoke at an Industry Breakfast at Great Bay Community College’s Advanced Technology & Academic Center in Rochester last week. The gathering included manufacturing industry leaders and economic development specialists who have worked with Great Bay to develop and grow the Rochester campus, which is a critical component of southern and Seacoast New Hampshire’s economic development strategy because of the school’s job-training capacity. The event was an opportunity to thank the businesses for their collaboration and make others aware of the College’s programs in high demand fields like Advanced Composites Manufacturing, CNC and nondestructive testing that serve New Hampshire’s growing innovative industry sector.
Safran partnered with Great Bay to establish the campus, because it needed a dependable source to train prospective employees. It advised the college on its curriculum and laboratory investments, and helped provide faculty and faculty training. Great Bay is a valuable component in Safran’s success in New Hampshire because it offers specialized academic and hands-on training in composites, Hoeing said, and its graduates are prepared to begin their careers with minimal on-the-job training.
When it began its partnership with Great Bay five years ago, Safran produced one composite part every eight weeks. Today, it makes 35 parts a day, in part because of the dependable, skilled workers that Great Bay provides, Hoeing said. The company’s growth is dependent on a well-prepared and adaptable workforce, he said.
John McMaster, a manager with BAE Systems, said students who graduate from ATAC are ready for the rigors and rewards of a career in manufacturing. “When I see you folks who have gone through this program, I know we can bring you in and you hit the ground running,” he said, addressing Great Bay students at the breakfast. “You have the skillset and a lot of experience.”
At its New Hampshire plant, BAE supplies commercial and defense electronics, and “we’re always looking for quality, highly-skilled labor so we can meet our production needs.”
BAE’s partnership with Great Bay and other community colleges benefits the company because it helps assure a stable workforce and the company’s growth and continued success, he said.
Great Bay worked with the city of Rochester to redevelop a former mall storefront into a satellite campus in 2012 to support Safran and Albany Engineered Composites and the opening of their 300,000-square-foot composite materials facility. ATAC was a direct response to Safran’s need for a highly skilled workforce, said Karen Pollard, Rochester’s Economic Development Manager.
ATAC became the largest project under the state’s Advanced Manufacturing Partnerships in Education Initiative, and was funded by a $20 million U.S. Department of Labor grant and $4 million in state money.
“What a difference this campus has made in the opportunities for people to continue their education or get started in their career,” Pollard said.
The city is supporting the effort by creating a business environment attractive to the high-tech manufacturing sector, she said. The city has approved about 1,000 units of affordable housing in the past two years, and made improvements to its industrial parks and technical-educational infrastructure, Pollard said.
Zenagui Brahim, president of the New Hampshire Manufacturing Extension Partnership, said the programs of Great Bay will help satisfy a goal of the Community College System of New Hampshire to ensure that 65 percent of adults 25 and older will have some post-secondary education, including certificates and advanced degrees, by 2025. A high school diploma is no longer sufficient to support a manufacturing career, he said.
Will Arvelo, Great Bay’s president, said the success of the Rochester campus is “part of the DNA of Great Bay.” The school is most effective when working in partnership with business and industry to identify needs and creating strategies to fill them. “It has been a venture in how a community college partners with industry to develop something new that is going to assist industry long term,” Arvelo said.
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