Published Date Written by Roger AmsdenLACONIA — An advanced manufacturing program which is being developed at Lakes Region Community College received a major donation recently from Aavid Thermalloy, one of 22 Lakes Region manufacturing firms working with the college to develop a curriculum that will help provide a steady stream of workers with the skills to meet their present and future needs.
The 8,000 pound Matsuura RA III Vertical Milling Machine, which right up until it was moved was being used to turn out products for Aavid's advanced thermal solutions line in Laconia, was so massive that it actually required knocking out sections of an exterior and interior wall so that it could be brought into the first floor of the academic building which currently houses the college's fire science, computer and electrical programs.
Don Brough, who is project director for the advanced manufacturing program, said that the milling machine will be a key component of the advanced manufacturing lab which is being put together at the college and which will occupy half of the first floor space of the building.
''Aavid and a lot of other advanced manufacturing firms in the area are being very supportive of the new program and helping us shape it so that it helps meet their needs for skilled workers,'' says Brough.
He says that the school is one of seven community colleges in the state which have formed a consortium which received a $19.9 million federal Trade Adjustment Assistance Community College and Career Training (TAACCCT) grant in 2010. Funds from the grant are being used to develop or update advanced manufacturing curriculums and laboratories across the Community College System of New Hampshire.
Brough, TAACCCT project director at LRCC, says the college received about $950,000 as its share of the grant and is working to develop a curriculum and hire instructors for the programs it is developing in cooperation with local businesses.
Carl Daniels, Energy Services Technology head at LRCC and former Aavid Thermalloy employee, is heading up the Advanced Manufacturing Department.
"College personnel appreciate Aavid's benevolence," says Daniels, adding ''the new milling machine will be used extensively to educate students in state-of-the-art manufacturing."
Brough said that the Lakes Region historically has been a strong manufacturing area lost a lot of that during the 1970s and 1980s when the piece work kinds of jobs with their repetitive tasks went overseas. ''There was once a machining program at the college but it closed down due to lack of students,'' says Brough, who can recall working at one of those jobs at Allen-Rogers in downtown Laconia during summers when he was attending Duquesne University in Pittsburgh and he ran turning machines that made golf tees.
He said that the manufacturing jobs which remain in the area are high-skilled jobs which are also highly paid, averaging $75,000 per year.
But all of the area's major manufacturers are facing worker shortages as older workers retire and fewer young people are coming through to replace them.
Brough says that a three-tiered approach is being developed in the school's program.
The first component is a WorkReadyNH program free to people ages 18 and over who are unemployed or underemployed and who are not full-time students. It provides professional assessments to participants in technical and soft skill competencies, provides 60 hours of training and then awards tiered certifications, which job seekers can cite as part of the application process and which can help employers quickly sort resumes. A gateway program aimed at decreasing unemployment, it is considered an accessible first step of sorts toward earning a full degree.
The next step up is a tuition-based certificate program for those looking for careers in advanced manufacturing. Brough said that it is a year long program divided into two semesters with courses covering manufacturing processes, basic machine shop math, blueprint reading, meteorology, and CNC machines.
Participants apply what they have learned through lab work and supervised demonstration of competencies on full size CNC machines in addition to eLearning simulation training.
Also being developed is a two-year associate's degree program which Brough says trains participants in advanced levels of mathematics, quality assurance, operations management, process design and development.
''This puts graduates in a great position to have a rewarding career in advanced manufacturing right here in the Lakes Region, where there are a lot of companies which will be bidding for their skills,'' says Brough.
Lakes Region Community College (LRCC) Advanced Manufacturing Department Head Carl Daniels explains elements of the new Matsuura RA III Vertical Milling Machine delivered to Advanced Manufacturing Department Coordinator, Don Brough. (Courtesy photo)