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From the Desk of Jack Healy

QCC and Mass-TEC Respond to the Challenge: Addressing Misconceptions and Recruiting a Skilled Workforce

By Carol King, Project Director, Massachusetts Technician Education Collaborative (Mass-TEC), Quinsigamond Community College

In July of 2007, Quinsigamond Community College was awarded a three-year National Science Foundation (NSF) grant for the Massachusetts Technician Education Collaborative (Mass-TEC) project, which brings together partners and existing resources from K-12 and undergraduate education, workforce development, industry leaders, and community-based outreach groups in an effort to respond to the region’s shortage of adequately skilled technicians in advanced manufacturing operations.

During the first year of the grant, Mass-TEC conducted three focus groups with teachers, parents, and career advisors in the Worcester area.  One purpose of the focus groups was to identify impediments that limit or prevent these career influencers from guiding adults and students toward advanced manufacturing careers. 

Among the most relevant findings of the focus groups included the following:

  • All three target audiences (i.e., parents, teachers, and career advisors) acknowledged that manufacturing jobs are stereotyped as labor-intensive, sweaty, and dirty.
  • Parents are concerned about the instability of jobs in manufacturing, and cite low pay and hard labor among the factors that hinder advocating for their children’s pursuit of such careers.
  • There is a general concern that students and adult career changers lack the math and science skills for advanced manufacturing jobs.
  • Career advisors acknowledged a limited understanding of advanced manufacturing and are open to collaborations and strategies that would increase their knowledge of available jobs and professional development opportunities for their clients.

To address these misconceptions and concerns, Mass-TEC project partners will begin an awareness campaign and hold outreach events with the target audiences.  The outreach events and awareness campaign will include discussions with manufacturing employees, site tours, employer roundtable discussions, podcasts, e-newsletters, videos, presentations, and information regarding educational and career pathways. 

In order for this initiative to be successful, Mass-TEC needs the support from Worcester-area advanced manufacturers. Mass-TEC is looking for employers who would be willing to support the project by doing any of the following:

  • Participating in roundtable discussions with teachers and career advisors
  • Suggesting employees who could fairly represent technician positions and could provide testimonials to Mass-TEC’s parent and teacher audiences; the parent audience is looking for testimonials from English-Spanish- and Vietnamese-speaking employees
  • Allowing Mass-TEC to interview AM technicians
  • Supplying video footage of advanced manufacturing facilities
  • Allowing Mass-TEC to photograph and create video site tours of manufacturing facilities
  • Working with Mass-TEC to produce videos and podcasts
  • Providing site tours for parents, teachers, and career advisors

Among the expected outcomes of this initiative, Mass-TEC expects to see an increased enrollment in manufacturing-related technical education and training programs, as well as an increase in the pool of skilled technicians available to Worcester-area manufacturing companies. 

To help QCC and Mass-TEC respond to the human capital challenge facing today’s manufacturers, become involved and learn more by contacting any of the following individuals: 

  • Carol King, Mass-TEC Project Director at Quinsigamond Community College
    Phone:  (508) 854-7526
    E-mail:  cking@qcc.mass.edu
  • Kathy Rentsch, Dean of Business and Technology at Quinsigamond Community College
    Phone:  (508) 854-2712
    E-mail:  kathyr@qcc.mass.edu
  • Kathie Mahoney, MassMEP
    Phone:  (508) 831-7020
    E-mail:  kathiem@massmep.org

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