South Middle School experiences National Manufacturing Day

Advance Manufacturing Foreman Todd Reynolds shows some of the workings of the manufacturing floor to visitors from South Middle School Friday (Photo by Peter Francis)

Advance Manufacturing Foreman Todd Reynolds shows some of the workings of the manufacturing floor to visitors from South Middle School. (Photo by Peter Francis)

WESTFIELD – To mark the second annual National Manufacturing Day, students from Westfield’s South Middle School visited the headquarters of the Advance Manufacturing Company on Airport Road, getting a sense of the vast wealth of opportunities available in this industry.
“There is a large variety of jobs available here besides machining,” said Jeffrey Amanti, a production manager whose family has owned the company since its founding. “We have opportunities in accounting, human resources. We have engineers that also deal with customers, computer personnel, IT people, people that run machines.”
Amanti estimates that, of the 200 people employed in the facility, about 150 are “direct laborers”, people who are dealing with the physical manufacturing day in and out.
“In our machine shop, we take a chunk of metal and make these,” Amanti said as he showed several metal parts to the group of eleven students in one of the company’s boardrooms, key components to submarines, spacesuits, and various military weaponry.
“How many of you have metal shoulders?” he asked the kids before explaining how the company creates metal balls for shoulder replacements, as well.
“We do a lot of small quantity jobs, lots of military parts,” Amanti continued. “Those F-15’s that fly around town, they’re equipped with these parts.”
While the company works closely with area vocational-technical schools like Westfield Voc-Tech, Dean Tech, and Gateway’s welding program, there are still opportunities for college graduates at the company.
“There is a need for machinists,” added Mike Barna, an estimator who has worked for the company for 24 years. “And as you progress, you can make a good living for yourself.”
Barna explained that interns can start at the company as almost an apprentice of sorts, making $10-12 dollars an hour at first but, as you progress and graduate from a vocational school, “the sky is the limit.”
“Time and a half pays around $18 an hour, Sundays $24 an hour. That’s where you make your money. You can make six figures here if you work hard enough,” he explained.
“You can also further your education while working here, and (Advance) will help pay for it,” he said.
When asked of what keeps so many employees so active, Amanti summed it up in two words.
“Unplanned Demand,” he said. “If there’s a plane that’s broken down and needs a part, we need to make it right away. We work a lot of hours to get these parts made, but there’s lots of overtime available as a result.”
Following the morning’s initial briefing, the students stepped onto the manufacturing floor to see the modern state of the industry, a clean, climate-controlled facility, likely a far cry from what the students had envisioned.
“We’ve been working with the Voc for over 50 years,” Amanti said, before saying the company has been hosting students for around a decade. “We’ve had people come out of this tour that are working here today.”
The students are where the future of the industry sits, and it is a future Amanti hopes will be a bright one.
“I hope it is,” he said. “We try hard to open kids’ eyes and show them what’s available. The hardest part is they don’t know (these jobs) exist.”
Angela Nunes, a guidance counselor at South who chaperoned, found the trip eye-opening for the students.
“It’s great to expose them to opportunities that a lot of kids don’t know about,” she said. “They learn how to get here through people like Jeff and Mike. I’ve always said ‘knowledge is power’ and this exposure is great.”
The kids she works with everyday agree.
“It’s cool to see how they make stuff for air crafts and submarines,” said Marcus Kane, an eighth grader at South.
“Definitely the machines,” said Liam Holohan, one of Kane’s cohorts at South, when aksed of his favorite part of the factory.
The students marveled behind their plastic safety glasses at the skilled labor being done.
“You talk about doctors having a steady hand, these guys have steady hands.” Amanti said, explaining to the group the degree of precision required in manufacturing certain parts.
Amanti said that education is of the utmost importance.
“A good all around education is key,” he said. “Communication skills are important, the ability to read and write, because there is so much documentation involved with everything we do.”
He also said that, for younger kids through high school, aptitude for the industry may be explored through classic and modern hobbies alike.
“Legos, erector sets, mechanical hobbies,” Amanti said. “These manufacturing facilities are very high tech, so if you like computers and video games, or even tinkering with your dad’s lawnmower. If you enjoy working with these things, they should look into this industry.”
During a visit to Crane Stationary, Governor Deval Patrick announced the MIT-Community College Pilot Project. Through the Project, the state’s community colleges and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology are partnering to develop and implement state-of-the-art online learning and training resources to allow the Commonwealth’s community colleges to reach more students and expand lab space for hands-on teaching, an essential component of manufacturing training. By connecting MIT’s strength in online learning, simulation and gaming technology with the hands-on classroom instruction at community colleges, the Project will transform how manufacturing education is delivered and enhance and expand the state’s ability to train students from high school through college for advanced manufacturing careers.
“The more we do to bring relevant hands-on work experiences to our college campuses will ensure we have a well-prepared workforce right here in Massachusetts,” said Secretary of Education Matthew Malone. “The partnership between MIT and our community colleges will help bring a new perspective to our community colleges and will benefit our students for years to come.”
“By increasing awareness and engaging students through hands-on applications and learning experiences, Massachusetts will build a strong and talented future workforce,” said Secretary of Labor and Workforce Development Joanne Goldstein. “The state’s manufacturing industry is expected to fill 100,000 jobs over the next decade, and our investments we make today will help to train, prepare and retain students to excel within the industry and in Massachusetts.”
Additionally, Patrick announced the second round of grants under the Advanced Manufacturing Collaborative’s AMP it up! program, which will total $100,000. Launched in September 2012 and operated by MassDevelopment, the program works to increase awareness among young adults and their families on the opportunities for good jobs and solid careers in manufacturing. In January 2013, MassDevelopment provided $92,736 to 10 organizations across the Commonwealth working to educate students about the industry and career options. Massachusetts-based nonprofit organizations that address education and workforce can apply for funding at
“Thanks to the Advanced Manufacturing Collaborative and events like National Manufacturing Day, people across Massachusetts are starting to see the new world of manufacturing: advanced, technology-based and innovative,” said MassDevelopment President and CEO Marty Jones. “MassDevelopment is pleased to boost the Commonwealth’s manufacturing sector through the Manufacturing Futures Fund and the AMP it up! campaign, and it was a thrill to see so many companies open their doors to students and adults today.”
The Patrick Administration is committed to supporting the growth of advanced manufacturing in Massachusetts, an industry that is expected to fill 100,000 jobs in the next decade and offers careers in a sector with an average annual salary of $75,000. These newest announcements build on the record investments in workforce training and education made by the Administration in recent years, including more than $10 million in Workforce Training Fund Grants awarded to 117 manufacturers since July 2011. Additionally, the Administration has fostered relationships throughout the regions to strengthen and expand connections between manufacturing companies and community colleges, career and technical high schools, career centers and workforce boards. For example, in partnership with Putnam Vocational Technical Academy, Westfield Vocational Technical High School and Springfield Technical Community College, the Precision Manufacturing Training Program has supported the training of 89 workers in Hampden County, including 31 veterans and 44 residents from Gateway Cities. In June, Governor Patrick announced the creation of the Advanced Manufacturing Regional Partnership Academy, a first-in-the-nation program designed to meet the manufacturing industry’s future workforce needs. The Academy will provide hands-on learning opportunities, and tool and peer-education to regional leaders, helping eliminate one of the industry’s chief concerns of finding well-trained employees to fill available jobs in manufacturing.
“Massachusetts is on the cutting-edge in terms of what states are doing to grow 21st century manufacturing,” said Secretary Housing and Economic Development Greg Bialecki. “By collaborating with industry leaders and academia, we can help ensure our next generation is equipped with the skills and knowledge necessary for careers in advanced manufacturing.”
Across the Commonwealth, in recognition of National Manufacturing Day, the Advanced Manufacturing Collaborative, a group comprised of leaders from industry, academia and government working together to enhance the competitiveness of Massachusetts manufacturing, reached out to manufacturers, schools and colleges to participate in open houses, public tours, roundtable discussions, career workshops and other events hosted by manufacturers.

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