Initiative Will Prepare Workers for Jobs in Advanced Manufacturing

Joseph Hartman, dean of UMass Lowell’s Francis College of Engineering, provides a tour of the college’s new makerspace to Lisa Derby Oden, project manager of the Massachusetts Manufacturing Extension Partnership.
Engineering Dean Joseph Hartman provides a tour of the college’s new Maker Space to Lisa Derby Oden, project manager of the MassMEP, during the October event.

By Edwin L. Aguirre

The ( Massachusetts Manufacturing Extension Partnership (MassMEP) and the university recently joined forces to expand training options in advanced manufacturing in the northeastern region of the state. 

Working with UMass Lowell, MassMEP will deliver its Advanced CNC (Computer Numerical Control) training program on the university’s campus. The partnership with UMass Lowell will double the capacity of the program from 36 trainees per year to 72, and meet a need for skilled CNC workers in the Merrimack Valley.

The eight-week, 280-hour program targets dislocated workers seeking careers in manufacturing as well as the underemployed and veterans. Although the basic curriculum focuses on developing the workers’ CNC skills, it has a broader application in a wide range of manufacturing enterprises. Companies and shops with CNC machinery will certainly be the main beneficiaries of the program, but any company that employs advanced manufacturing processes can also potentially benefit from it.

The CNC training program uses the Manufacturing Advanced Center Workforce Innovative Collaborative (MACWIC) curriculum — a competency-based instructional program developed by MassMEP for creating a standard instructional level that manufacturers can use in evaluating prospective employees.

The Francis College of Engineering will provide advanced training in CNC machine operation, as well as a location for the program in its new Maker Space, an 8,500-square-foot facility located in the basement of Falmouth Hall on North Campus. Maker Space features everything from workstations for machining and electronics to 3D printers and walls that are entirely whiteboard to inspire creativity and collaboration.

The first class will begin Dec. 7 and last through Feb. 5, 2016. There will be 12 candidates in this class and in the succeeding ones. MassMEP will handle the first part of the training program, including job preparation and personal skills development; the second part will be conducted by John Mulligan, a technician in the Mechanical Engineering Department and director of Maker Space, and mechanical engineering Assoc. Prof. Glenn Sundberg, who directs the Engineering Technology program. Candidates who successfully complete the program will receive a MACWIC Applied Manufacturing Technology Pathway Certification.

Addressing a Critical Shortfall in Skilled Workers

“Our partnership with MassMEP will allow us to continue the university’s mission of promoting economic growth in the region by helping meet the needs of industry,” said Engineering Dean Joseph Hartman during the program’s official launch on Oct. 16 at Maker Space.

“The manufacturing industry in Massachusetts is facing a critical shortfall in skilled workers, with jobs currently unfilled and more expected to open up over the next 10 years,” said Chancellor Jacqueline Moloney in her remarks before the partnership’s signing ceremony. Moloney cited a recent report that projects that over the next decade, nearly 3.5 million manufacturing jobs will likely need to be filled, and the skills gap is expected to result in 2 million of those jobs going unfilled.

“Competition for skilled workers and employees, with just the most basic skills — but especially those with advanced skills — is and will continue to keep companies from growing,” she noted. “Developing innovative workforce programs that address the skills gap can mean the difference between keeping and creating jobs here in Massachusetts and in the United States, or increasing reliance on offshore resources.” 

Moloney added: “This is why our partnership with MassMEP is so critical. By partnering with them to deliver advanced training, we are confronting the skills gap head-on. UMass Lowell is dedicated to ensuring a sustainable workforce within the Merrimack Valley, the state and beyond. This partnership serves as a vital bridge between government, industry and education and aims to create a pipeline of skilled workers to develop and maintain a thriving manufacturing community.”

“We look forward to engaging with job seekers and employers,” said Ted Bauer, director of workforce development strategies for MassMEP. “We are especially excited about the future. When education and industry join forces, it promises to be a game-changer for the entire region.”