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Education & Workforce Development

STEM Initiatives: Updating Machinists’ Skills

(Science, Technology, Engineering and Math)

Eight jobseekers have successfully completed a unique training program consisting of two weeks of CORE training followed by five weeks of advanced CNC training at Worcester Polytechnic Institute. This program was developed in partnership with the Mid-Massachusetts STEM Pathways Initiative, MassMEP, and the North Central Career Center. It was designed to help out-of-work machinists update their skills as well as minimize the time needed for on-the-job training.

North Central Career Center identified candidates for the program, who were then screened and interviewed with Leslie Parady, MassMEP Program Manager. The CORE program trains people in the basics of advanced manufacturing operations in a fraction of the time of traditional programs. Topics covered include basic shop math, blueprint reading, basic understanding on quality control and measurement using scaled measurement tools, vernier calipers, dial calipers, micrometers, fixed gages, and outside and inside calipers. Participants also learn basic understanding of SPC and its role within a company. They are also introduced to CNC program applications.

The next phase of training was conducted by WPI. The advanced training at WPI gave the participants hands-on learning on actual CNC machines. They learned tool changeovers, problem solving and the troubleshooting process, and gained experience in metrology and learned how to set up and adjust the machines. This piece of the training allows employers to cut training time in half or more.

Adam H. Sears, a laboratory machinist at WPI, worked closely with the participants on 11 CNC machines in the shop at the school. "We were asked to help by MassMEP in an effort to train people so they can get better jobs," Mr. Sears said. "They will learn to take a drawing and bring it all the way to a finished part. They’ll learn how to do everything from ‘art to part,’ " he said.

Steven E. Phillips, president of Phillips Precision in Boylston, said it was a "no-brainer" to choose a job candidate who does not require on-the-job training over one who does.

"It’s the difference between someone that has seen a CNC machine and someone who hasn’t," he said. He added that the training at WPI can save a company thousands of dollars in training time.

The MOST/MEP WPI CNC Machine Operator training has become an innovative option available to customers of the Dislocated Workers Services (DWS) program at the North Central Career Center. It is designed to meet the needs of experienced machine operators whose unsuccessful job search efforts were affected by the requirements of modern tooling. It is especially true of the current workforce marketplace that excellent hand-eye coordination and craftsmanship demonstrated by years of shop experience are no longer sufficient to be hired. The eight candidates selected the program as a pilot and experiment, with some doubts about their ability to understand and work with the computer based programs. The job seekers that took the CNC training not only gained greater competence, but also confidence in their overall preparedness to compete in this complex market. All eight candidates have successfully completed, and expressed their new confidence with enthusiastic reviews of the learning they have just gained at WPI. The class graduated on December 11, 2009. Their resumes can be found on at

Mid-Massachusetts STEM Pathways Initiative is sponsored in part by the US Department of Labor, Employment, and Training Administration. The program is an equal opportunity program.

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