WESTFIELD – Representatives from MassHire Hampden County Workforce Board (formerly Regional Employment Board of Hampden County) were at Westfield Technical Academy last week to promote a free manufacturing technology evening course for adults, funded through a grant from the Executive Office of Housing and Economic Development (EOHED).
Larry Martin, Director of Business Services and Market Research at MassHireHCWB, said the program is in its seventh year at Westfield Tech, and is the longest running of three job readiness programs in Hampden County aimed at training skilled workers in advanced manufacturing. The 245-hour course (Monday through Thursday, 3:30 to 7:30 p.m.), begins in January and runs through the end of May.
Martin, who works with area employers, said there is an 80 to 85% placement rate for graduates, who range in age from the early 20’s to 60’s (average age is 30 to 35). He said the program is for career changers. Applicants need to complete an assessment testing, and will also go through job readiness training with a job coach at a Career Center as a requirement of the program.
“The goal is to get these individuals foundational skills, and get them employed. There is a demand for advanced manufacturing,” Miller said. Adult graduates have been placed as CNC Operators, Complex Machine Operators, Machine Service Technicians, Quality Control Inspectors, and Process Control Technicians.
Westfield Tech’s Lead Manufacturing Technology Instructor Gary Nadeau said the four instructors in the adult class are the same four as in the high school program, each taking one night. Nadeau teaches manual and CNC (Computer Numerical Controls) machines. He said students use math, work with blue prints, and make machine parts with the turning center, milling center, and drills, both manually and on computer.
Two years ago, thanks to a Skills Capital Grant, the manufacturing program purchased eight new state-of-the-art machines, five milling and three turning, to meet business and industry minimum requirements.
“New England is a hub of precision manufacturing,” Nadeau said, adding, “The skills gap is huge. If I had 20 seniors, I could place them all.” The WTA high school program capacity is 16, and 15 in the adult class.
Last week, Nadeau was working with juniors Josh Faunce and Alice Mosijchuk on the CNC machines. Faunce said he wants to be a CNC operator when he graduates.
“I would like to do more engineering than operating the machines, but this is a good start,” said Mosijchuk. The WTA manufacturing program has an Early College articulation agreement with Springfield Technical Community College, which allows students to get 12 credits toward an engineering degree if they have a “B” average or better in five different areas of study, according to Nadeau.
Tenth grade Instructor Lyle Washington also teaches the adult students, who he said bring with them a level of maturity. “They’re here because they’re usually underemployed or undereducated, and have more of a sense of urgency. They do well, as long as they have a decent mechanical aptitude and are willing to learn. We break it down for them and teach them what they need to know,” he said.
In the shop last week, Washington was helping sophomore Elizabeth Babinova, who also has aspirations to become an engineer, on a manual ProtoTrak milling machine. “I’m planning on going to college for a degree in that,” she said.
“We especially love to have women in our program – women, minorities, veterans. Usually 10 to 20% are women. There is an increase in women who are interested,” Martin said.
Instructor Jayme Coggin agreed. He said his sister took the adult course back in 2013 at age 20. Now she works at Spectrum Machine and Design in CT, and is making $22/hour, 55 hours/week. “Before she was running from job to job. She had a job, but not a career,” Coggin said.
Anyone interested in more information or to sign up for the adult manufacturing class, may contact Larry Martin at the Hampden County Workforce Board at 413-755-1361 ([email protected]), or sign up through MassHire Springfield Career Center (formerly FutureWorks) at 413 858-2800, or MassHire Holyoke Career Center (formerly CareerPoint) at 413 532-4900.