This article originally appeared on the Department of Commerce's blog, Commerce.gov. Guest blog post by John Killam, Director of the Massachusetts Manufacturing Extension Partnership (MassMEP).
A U.S. Air National Guard veteran, a high school dropout, a person with a background in sales and a family man who hadn’t been in a classroom for twenty years; four men on very different paths that ultimately led to one destination…the Massachusetts Manufacturing Extension Partnership’s (MassMEP) Accelerated CNC Program.
Manufacturers across the state express their need for technically trained workers and their concern over the shortage of such workers in the “pipeline.” As “baby boomers” reach retirement age the number of trained CNC (Computer Numerical Control) machine operators is declining rapidly. In answer to this shortage, MassMEP and its partners, developed the Accelerated CNC Program, an intense 280-hour, eight-week training that attracts men and women of all ages and backgrounds; with or without past manufacturing or machining experience. Participants are able to graduate with recognized credentials and college credits as well as Lean Manufacturing and OSHA certifications.
Some students want to learn skills to help them enter a new career, while others hope to update their skills for today’s manufacturing environment. Don Auclair had developed manual machining ability throughout his time with the U.S. Air National Guard and in subsequent civilian jobs. He knew that 98 percent of today’s machine shops would require CNC capabilities. A Google search for CNC training brought him to MassMEP’s website. He got details on the program, began the screening process and was selected. Auclair was able to leverage his participation in the training class to land a part-time position at machining company Technimetals to provide him some income during training. This allowed Auclair to demonstrate his work ethic and ability as he developed new skills. The arrangement lead to a full-time job at Technimetals after graduation.
David Prak came to the Accelerated CNC Skills Training program at UMass Lowell from the United Teen Equality Center, a Lowell nonprofit that helps at-risk youth get back on track. “I wanted to make a good life for my daughter, for my family,” Prak shared. After earning his GED, Prak was eager to get out and explore new opportunities. The Accelerated CNC Skills Training interested him. In March, he began working as a machinist with a new joint partnership in the Northeast part of the state. The Advanced CNC Skills Training has put him on a pathway to earn 26 college credits while working at his job, an idea that really appeals to him.
Matt Krahn was a good salesman but never really enjoyed sales, so when he became unemployed he took the opportunity to head in a different direction and got involved with the Accelerated CNC Training class, offered by MassMEP with (Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) and Quinsigamond Community College. After passing the fairly extensive screening process, he was accepted into the class. Just about the time Krahn’s training was completed, Menck Window was looking for employees for their new facility. The company needed to hire the right people with the right skills who would be a good fit for their operation. After a few interviews, Menck hired Krahn in November 2014. “I would not have been prepared for a position like this if I didn’t have the MassMEP training.” says Krahn.
After two years in college followed by time in the Army in Germany as a petroleum Supply Specialist, Christopher Campbell spent several years in the restaurant industry before he and his wife returned to Worcester, Massachusetts, to raise their family. In 2015, he began the Accelerated CNC Training classes. As a 37-year-old father and husband, who had been unemployed for over 5 months and out of school for nearly two decades, he was nervous and had no idea what to expect. Things fell into place for Campbell during the second week of class with the actual hands-on training on the CNC machines in the machine lab at WPI. Not only was he learning, but at the same time the class was growing closer as a group and helping one another. As part of the program, MassMEP hosted a job fair inviting several local manufacturers with employment needs. The “speed dating” style event allowed potential employers to meet with each of the eleven candidates face-to-face and determine who they would like to invite for more in-depth, on-site interviews. Before the group even graduated on May 22nd, Campbell had four interviews and two job offers.
The Accelerated CNC Program has trained 326 people for careers in manufacturing. MassMEP is proud to partner with other institutions in the state to build the skills pipeline and ensure a strong manufacturing industry now and for years to come.