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Recruiting a Skilled Workforce: Mass-TEC Holds Information Session on Advanced Manufacturing

By Carol King, Project Director, Mass-TEC, Quinsigamond Community College

As part of its three-year, grant-funded initiative, Quinsigamond Community College’s Mass-TEC project held its first outreach event, "Advanced Manufacturing: It’s Not Your Father’s Manufacturing! An Information Session for Career Counselors," for Worcester-area career counselors on February 27, 2009, in the downtown offices of the Central Massachusetts Regional Employment Board.

The purpose of this first event for career counselors was to provide attendees with an understanding of the term "advanced manufacturing;" give them an overview of the present state of manufacturing in Central Massachusetts; explain the skills, education, and knowledge required to become a successful employee in the field; and show the potential for career growth.

After a brief event overview and introduction by the Mass-TEC project director, Jonathan Latner, of Commonwealth Corporation, explained that advanced manufacturing was any type of manufacturing where technology (e.g., computer-aided design, computer-aided engineering, computer numerically controlled machines, automation, and robotics, etc.) is used to design, manufacture, or handle a product.  He then provided a data-driven overview of the current economy, Massachusetts employment trends, and state wage information for manufacturing and other employment sectors. 

Included in his presentation, Jonathan also gave a number of reasons why a person might choose a career in manufacturing (e.g., wage/salary, opportunities for growth, diversity of fields and jobs, etc.). Some of the reasons are:

  • Manufacturing is the 4th largest employer in Massachusetts, based on 2007 employment data.
  • Average annual wage for manufacturing is $69,621.
  • There are jobs in manufacturing due to new jobs (in old and new businesses) and replacement jobs, due to turnover, promotions, transfers, and retirement.

Presentations on entry-level skills, by Ted Bauer of Massachusetts Manufacturing Extension Partnership, education pathways, by Kathy Rentsch of Quinsigamond Community College, and career ladders, by Cathy and Steve Phillips of Phillips Precision Co., all reiterated that the nature of work is changing and that opportunities for career growth in manufacturing is possible. Today’s employees, however, need to have problem-solving, communication, and technical skills, understanding of basic math, the ability to work in teams, and the motivation to continually upgrade their skills, training, and education in order to be successful in the 21st century workplace.

Today’s manufacturing environment is technology intensive with automation/robotics, computerized machinery, and work processes are founded on teamwork and oriented to a high quality output. There are career opportunities within manufacturing.

Participants were also given a tour of the Mobile Training Unit (MTU), where Matt Healy and Kathie Mahoney, of the Massachusetts Manufacturing Extension Partnership, described the purpose and function of the Mobile Operator Skills Training (M.O.S.T.) program. 

The M.O.S.T. program trains people, with little or no prior manufacturing experience, in the basics of manufacturing operations in a fraction of the time of traditional programs. 

The majority of attendees felt that their understanding of manufacturing career choices improved after attending the event; some expressed that they had "no idea of growth and opportunities in this field" and were interested to know that "career prospects do exist." Highlights for participants included the personal accounts of Cathy and Steve Phillips, Ted Bauer’s insights into the industry, Kathy Rentsch’s information on education paths, Jonathan Latner’s report on the current status of manufacturing, and the tour of the MTU.

Future events with career counselors will include roundtable discussions with manufacturing employees, human resources representatives, and company owners. In order to continue expanding the awareness of area career counselors, and other members of Mass-TEC’s target audience (i.e., parents, teachers, and guidance counselors), the project needs support from area industry representatives. 

Keep informed about Mass-TEC project activities by visiting the project’s blog or following its Twitter feed.

This initiative will succeed only with the support of manufacturers in central Massachusetts. To get involved and learn more about how you can help, contact any of the following individuals: 

  • Carol King, Mass-TEC Project Director at Quinsigamond Community College
    Phone:  508-854-7526
    E-mail:  [email protected]

  • Kathy Rentsch, Dean of Business and Technology at Quinsigamond Community College
    Phone:  508-854-2712
    E-mail:  [email protected]

  • Kathie Mahoney, MassMEP
    Phone:  508-831-7020
    E-mail:  [email protected]


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