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MassMEP's Advanced CNC Program Graduation: Advancing Careers, Advancing Education

"I learned so much in this Advanced CNC training program. I realized my potential as a skilled worker and as a student. Before beginning the program I felt frustrated and alone, with seemingly no hope of continuing my career. I was selected for the training and met 11 others who were in the same place I was. We worked together along with the MassMEP staff who, with their knowledge and skill, prepared us for a new career in the CNC industry. Now I feel confident that I can be a valuable employee at my new job as a CNC machinist. This training has enabled the 12 of us to get a start in a career that is difficult to enter without previous experience. The training with the HAAS CNC machines at WPI provided invaluable hands-on experience and education. This program really has turned my life around and showed me that together we can bring manufacturing back as a lasting career to our community."

-- Jesse Hills, Advanced CNC Program

MassMEP's Advanced CNC Program Graduation: Advancing Careers, Advancing Education

The MassMEP Workforce Development Team has graduated their 11th Advanced CNC Class. The graduates, who span a wide range of ages, previous work experience, and expertise, heard about the program through their local Career Center after becoming unemployed. Twelve students were selected from a much larger group of potential candidates because they displayed an aptitude for CNC Machining skills and the right attitude to succeed in the rigorous program.

On Friday, October 18, 2013, the MassMEP conference room in Worcester was filled with graduates, instructors, directors of organizations, members of local Workforce Investment Bureaus, and elected officials. Ted Bauer, Manager of Workforce Development Programs for Mass MEP, welcomed the group and acknowledged Senator Michael O. Moore and State Representative John V. Fernandes. Bauer thanked them for attending and for their advocacy for manufacturing.

Bauer said programs like the Advanced CNC "will help us prepare for the manufacturing renaissance. Its success in meeting an ongoing need in the manufacturing community is exemplified in the fact that half of the graduates had already accepted new positions prior to graduation. The others are actively engaged with potential employers as well."   

109 Graduates to Date
Since 2009, 109 people have graduated from the Advanced CNC Program, which enjoys a 90+% placement rate.

"For programs serving dislocated workers this is as good as it gets," adds Bauer. "This group of individuals was engaged and motivated. They could articulate why they wanted to be part of this program and convinced Lisa Derby Oden, our Workforce Programs Coordinator that they were the right candidates."

Bauer told the graduates that as representatives of the program they can give back by being successful and by helping others move forward. Jack Healy, Director of Mass MEP, added that the training program was sponsored by the federal government through the H1B Technical Skills Training Grant, which focuses on creating pathways to further people's educational opportunities.

Senator Moore spoke to the audience about joining the senate five years ago just as the economy crashed and seeing what this has done to manufacturing. He is involved with the Committee for Higher Education in the Senate and advocates for programs like this that help align opportunities -- government, businesses, and individuals working together to retrain people and help them find new skills or brush up their existing skills. He congratulated the graduates and wished them success.

State Rep. John Fernandes has been a member of the Massachusetts House of Representatives for seven years. For him, the choice to get involved with manufacturing came from his Dad who spent over 35 years working at Draper Company Foundry during the day and in a machine shop at night. When Draper closed in the 80's, his father, who was 62 with only an 8th grade education, was forced into an early retirement. Fernandes laments the loss of manufacturing in our area and wants to be part of its resurgence. He is active with the Legislative Caucus on Manufacturing which works to bring attention to the importance of reinvigorating manufacturing and advocates for manufacturing jobs.

"It was a real pleasure to attend the ceremony for the graduates of this special program," stated Rep. Fernandes. "It provides not just a job but new skills that open a lifetime of opportunity to those who may have felt passed them. The smiling faces of the graduates were all the testimony one needed to see to know how successful this program is. Our task as legislators is to find a way to bring this program to more and more people across the Commonwealth."

"You are all well prepared now, use what you have learned," Bauer advised. "Remember that there is always something more to learn so keep listening and learning throughout your career. This will keep you engaged and at the top of the pack. It will provide the best opportunities for you to move forward. This is a career you are entering not a job."

Certificates Awarded
Each graduate received several certificates during the ceremony for the training they completed. David Wallace, Deputy Director of the Massachusetts Division of Apprentice Standards presented the class with their Apprenticeship Certificates which they can "take and build on" because employers want people who want careers," he said.  Apprenticeship was adopted and formalized here and his office has been tracking them since 1941. Apprenticeship was typically used in the construction areas but, "with this program the MEP has taken machining in a new direction. They are not stuck in the old model but change with technology," added Wallace. "You need to have an awareness of where you want to go and opportunities will come."

Matthew Healy of MassMEP presented the Lean to Green certificates. Healy was the primary instructor for the first several weeks of classes and taught: shop math, blue print reading, MasterCam, metrology, geometric distancing and tolerancing (GD &T), basic CNC skills, and a session on basic Lean Manufacturing. Continuous Improvement tools like Value Stream Mapping and Kaizen were presented, as well. Lisa Oden helped the group prepare their career blueprint through resume writing assistance, professional development, interviewing skills, and teambuilding exercises. She also arranged a career fair allowing the students to interview with local companies seeking employees with advanced machining skills. This fair resulted in many second interviews and job offers.

Torbjorn (Toby) Bergstrom, Operations Manager of Worcester Polytechnic Institute's (WPI's) Manufacturing Laboratory, and his student assistants provided five weeks of intensive Advanced CNC Training. As a key training partner, WPI opened up their Machine Technologies Lab at 6 am to allow the Advanced CNC group to use the facility before regular college classes began. Ted Bauer commented, "Without Toby and his team, this Advanced CNC Program would not have been possible. To make the lab at a private four year college accessible for our groups was a crucial element to this program and was the first important step some of the grads will take toward higher education." Bergstrom recognized his student assistants who worked in the lab assisting the trainees during the 6 am sessions. "Without them," he said, "this program could not happen." Toby presented the Advanced CNC Certificates.

OSHA safety training by was provided by Brian Cummings of Worcester Technical High School, another valuable partner of the program. The graduates will receive their OSHA card.

Finally, there was a Math Boot Camp taught by Sheiba Mas-Oud, Assistant Professor of Math at Quinsigamond Community College. The group worked on math skills in preparation for taking the Accuplacer Exam which helps determine their future placement at the college should they choose to further their education.

Linking the Advanced CNC training to advancing their education, Michelle Turau Afriyie, Associate Dean of Enrollment Management at QCC explained the options now available to the graduates to continue their education at the college. The rigorous program they have just completed makes them eligible to earn college credit for showing competency in various areas during on the job training at their new employer. This can translate in to a full year of credits toward a two year degree. Michelle explained that QCC has course offerings and schedules to fit the working person's needs with availability at night , on weekends, and online, as well as on campus. "So get those OJT hours logged," suggested Afriyie, "and then plan your next steps! QCC can help with articulation agreements, financial aid, and grants to make it work for you!"

Graduate Michael Katz stated, "I feel I learned a lot. It was not easy by any means, but it was a great experience. I have this new energy to keep learning and hopefully will get my Associates Degree sometime in the near future!"

Jason Winship, also an Advanced CNC graduate, added, "I would recommend this program to anyone who is interested in a life changing career in CNC Machining.  Not only did I receive a well-rounded education, I received a sense of self worth.  The staff at MassMEP was exceptionally talented and the WPI crew was top notch. Toby hand- picked an exceptional collection of student teachers that were friendly and knowledgeable. The whole experience is one that I won't forget nor will I forget the gentlemen who participated in the class. We all helped each other and some have bonds that will continue for years to come.  All in all, this was the best training program I have ever attended. Let me thank Rena Segool from the North Central Career Center.  Her effort to get me into this program was relentless and greatly appreciated. Finally, a special thanks to Lisa Oden. If it wasn't for her I wouldn't have had this opportunity to change my career path.  Thanks to all who made this happen and please keep up the good work. There are a lot of deserving people out there who can use your help!"

Francisco Rivera, returning from a successful second interview, wrote, "Things are looking really good! I would like to thank all the MassMEP personnel for your hard work, dedication, and concern for our success. We couldn´t do it without you. Thank you!" 

Ray Nowlan agreed, "The training is very accelerated, with a lot to absorb in eight weeks. But I feel much more prepared than I was before I took it."  

The next Advanced CNC Class will begin in January 2014. Please contact Lisa Derby Oden if you have questions. (508) 831-7020 ext 15

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