ROCHESTER — Students from six area high schools from New Hampshire and Maine toured Great Bay Community College’s Advanced Technology and Academic Center (ATAC) recently. The juniors and seniors learned firsthand how degree programs in composites manufacturing, nondestructive testing and CNC are preparing graduates for high demand jobs with competitive salaries in aerospace, marine, automotive and manufacturing.
As the groups from Portsmouth High School, Somersworth High School, Spaulding High School, Portland Arts and Technology High School, Dover High School and Nute High School toured the campus, they participated in hands on demonstrations in the ACM and NDT labs and heard from a panel of Great Bay ACM students.
Justin Bailey, a 2013 graduate of Dover High School, took a year off before starting the Advanced Composites Manufacturing certificate program at Great Bay. “The ACM program seemed like a good middle ground opportunity for me,” said Bailey. “I could work and hone my skills at the same time and when I graduate this April with a specialization in CNC, I’ll have an opportunity to earn an incredible wage.”
Maggie Spaulding, a graduate of Spaulding High School, loved engineering and knew she wanted to eventually work in manufacturing. “I knew that a trade school would offer me experience but I felt that a community college would be more effective. I could gain lots of skills and they would be transferable.”
Sean Hoeing, organizational development specialist at Safran Aerospace Composites who hires many of the ATAC graduates, also offered the students insight into the field of composites and potential long-term job opportunities, particularly for those who go on to continue their education.
Safran currently offers graduates of the ACM program a tuition reimbursement program. Once hired by the company, GBCC students have the opportunity to continue on to get their Associate degree in technical studies. “We want you to continue your education,” said Hoeing. “At Safran, we are constantly improving our operations through intentional change – the reality is what you are doing for your job today may not be the same in 10 years. Our goal is to hire great employees and we want them to stay. By giving them an education, they become more valuable and flexible.”
Michael Delsmith, an instructor at PATH, a regional technical high school in Maine, said it was important for his students who are learning about composites for the marine industry make the trip to ATAC. “The visit today provided them with the chance to see the advanced side of composites. Even if they want to work for a boat builder, today it’s a big advantage to have an understanding of composites in the marine market. They also saw not just the manufacturing side but also nondestructive testing and quality control.” To better his own program, Delsmith himself is considering getting the ACM certificate at GBCC late this year.
ATAC began offering their first certificate program in Advanced Composites Manufacturing in 2013, training over 175 students to date for jobs at major manufacturers including Safran Aerospace Composites, BAE, Turbocam, Brazonics, Sig Sauer and East Coast Metrology. The program, the only one of its kind in the Northeast, is designed to build technical, academic and workplace skills, which are applicable in jobs across the country.
This past fall, the College added a nondestructive testing certificate program that focuses on teaching techniques to test and troubleshoot materials and products in the research and development phase. In their Introduction to Nondestructive Testing course, students are introduced to a variety of inspection methods, followed by in-depth courses that cover methods including liquid penetrant (PT), and ultrasonic (UT). According to Instructor Bill Hinton, 75 percent of the students who completed his Introduction to NDT course so far have gone on to work at Safran.
Great Bay will be offering a new CNC certificate program this September designed specifically to prepare participants for jobs as computer-controlled milling machine operators for metal and plastic. Students learn basic skills, including milling, inspection, and computer aided design/computer aided manufacturing. According the Debra Mattson, Advanced Materials Manufacturing Program Director/Designer at the College’s Advanced Technology and Academic Center, the College has recently added several advanced CNC courses as well for the students who complete the certificate program and continue on to earn their associate degree in Technical Studies with a focus on CNC.
“In this field it’s important for CNC operators to continue to get hands-on experience while advancing their skills and knowledge. With our program, they can complete the certificate, begin a career, earn a salary, gain experience and continue on to take the advanced classes part-time that ultimately may lead to job advancement. From the very start, they get high level training and credits towards an associate degree.”
Madeline Wakefield of Buxton, Maine, was the only female student in the group from PATH. Currently going to school for automotive after having grown up working on her grandfather’s trucks, she is now considering composites and the marine industry. “I love working with fiberglass and carbon fiber. There is so much opportunity out there.”
In addition to NDT, ACM and CNC, Great Bay has also expanded short-term offerings at ATAC to include programs in Medical Assistant, HAVAC, Supervision, Team Performance. For more information visit www.greatbay.edu/shortterm.
For information on the Advanced Composites Program, the public is invited to attend an information session on March 7, from 11 a.m.-noon at Great Bay Community College in Rochester. For info visit www.greatbay.edu/atac