Lakes Region Advanced Manufacturers Endorse New Curriculum

Lakes Region Advanced Manufacturers Endorse New Curriculum

LRCC received unanimous support from more than 20 regional advanced manufacturing leaders of the curriculum it is designing to prepare New Hampshire workers and job seekers for success in high-skill, high-tech positions.

The voice vote was taken during a meeting of LRCC’s “business advisory committee” to update entrepreneurs on progress the school has made under the $19.9 million federal Trade Adjustment Assistance Community College and Career Training grant, approved 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.

The initiative has been embraced by manufacturers across the state, who have struggled to find enough qualified people to keep up with demand for their products, which are used by companies in industries as diverse as aerospace, medical and automotive.

The call for help was repeated Friday, with Gary Groleau, corporate manager of labor relations for New Hampshire Ball Bearings, based in Laconia, saying the discussion of how to create a pipeline of qualified job applicants for companies desperate for workers began years ago and “the hiring problem is not going away. We need an orderly way to bring new people in,” he said. “We need a program like TAACCCT to do it.”

Carl Daniels, energy services and technology head at LRCC and former Aavid Thermalloy employee, agreed, and added that the workforce need is nationwide. 

“These are good people,” he said of the multitude of job seekers, from recent high school graduates to veterans returning from military service, to workers displaced due to layoffs, to currently employed people whose skills have fallen behind current technologies. “But they just don’t know how to do the work.”

The curriculum being developed at LRCC and the six other NH community colleges was developed to align directly with the needs of regional manufacturers. Business leaders were brought in to guide the development process and have even donated thousands of dollars in equipment to ensure a smooth transition from training and education programs at the community colleges onto the manufacturing floors of their companies.

Aavid Thermalloy, specifically, has donated several pieces of automated machinery to LRCC, including a Matsura vertical milling machine. The company’s investment in the program totals in the thousands of dollars.

The curriculum approved by manufacturers includes courses as part of an advanced manufacturing certificate; an associate’s degree program is in the works. Courses cover machine processes, blueprint reading and solid modeling, computer numerical controlled machining and machine tool math.

Math, in particular, is a concern of employers looking to make hires, but going to college to brush up or learn it “doesn’t have to be scary,” according to Jennifer Scotland, director of the WorkReadyNH site at Great Bay Community College in Portsmouth. The program, free to people ages 18 and over who are unemployed or underemployed and who are not full time students, 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.

WorkReadyNH sites, funded in part by the TAACCCT grant, are up and running at four of the seven community colleges, and a location is expected to open soon at LRCC.

The words “urgent” and “need” were used repeatedly during the meeting, and are no surprise to Don Brough, TAACCCT project director at LRCC. 

Excited about the unanimous vote of support for the new curriculum, he said as he showed off space that will house a new manufacturing lab at LRCC that the college’s industry partners are crying out: “You MUST do this!”

And as he plans the layout of the lab, purchases computers and other equipment and adds to the growing list of industry supporters, he’s happy to oblige.

After all, he said, Laconia has a lively history of manufacturing, and he wants to take it into the next generation.

To learn more about the TAACCCT grant in New Hampshire and advanced manufacturing programs at Great Bay Community College, Nashua Community College, Manchester Community College, NHTI – Concord’s Community College, Lakes Region Community College, River Valley Community College and White Mountains Community College, email TAACCCT marketing coordinator Desiree Crossley at dcrossley@ccsnh.edu.