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Workforce Development

Mass-TEC: Community Partnerships Change Perception

Manufacturing is an integral part of our past, our present and our future but, what we are making today may not be what we need to make in fifteen years. We have to form an infrastructure to create new jobs for the future to keep our businesses competitive and encourage cutting edge research and development. We also need to prepare the workforce for the future.” Congressman James McGovern, 3rd Congressional District.

In 2007, the National Science Foundation (NSF) Advanced Technology Education (ATE) program funded a three-year initiative called Mass-TEC. The initiative focused on developing a skilled workforce for the Worcester-area manufacturing community by educating and broadening the awareness of those who influence career choices of students or adult job seekers, about today’s manufacturing. This campaign of outreach and education was led by Quinsigamond Community College (QCC) and is a partnership of educators, schools and colleges, local businesses and community organizations, working together to change the negative perception of manufacturing and build a skilled workforce for the future.  

“There is a dearth of education and career awareness around manufacturing and other industries. It is extremely important to change that.” Carol King, Mass-TEC Project Director

Mass-TEC has provided outreach and information to schools, parents, teachers, guidance personnel and career counselors. It also connected with community-based organizations to include the underserved and non-English speaking populations, providing occasions for these groups to interact with manufacturers and to learn about various types of manufacturing and the wage and career potential in the industry.

Members of the Massachusetts Manufacturing Extension Partnership (MasssMEP) were involved in helping Mass-TEC develop their marketing message and materials, presenting to and speaking with groups about manufacturing careers, as well as providing tours of the mobile training unit (used to train people in basic machine operation) at some Mass-TEC outreach events. 

Success for Mass-TEC
During the past few years, Mass-TEC has provided programs for career influencers who impact students and adult career changers, providing valuable information about manufacturing. These programs have confirmed that having industry involved in education at different levels has an effect not only on the decisions made by students and career changers, but also on the direction of education.

Mass-TEC worked to ensure a consistent message across various career influencer groups. “Manufacturing partners such as Metso, Intel, Nypro, Saint-Gobain, Phillips Precision, JP Mfg, EMC, Slideways, and IPG Photonics were invited to outreach sessions with parents.  The same companies were invited to events for guidance counselors and career advisors” says Carol King. “Doing this kept a continuity of the message and information relayed to the different audiences”

“When first approached about Mass-TEC we thought we would get involved to be “charitable,” but it has not been that type of experience at all. There has been a huge company payback. We saw a need, a gap in the age of our workforce. Many of our employees have been with us for twenty-five to thirty-five years and do not have the most current skills. What today’s students are learning didn’t exist for them. Having the kids work with our employees is a learning experience for everyone. Updating skills and sharing knowledge will help keep our company going in the future, generate wealth for the community and be part of the economic engine of the area.”   David Bayreuther, VP of Engineering Metso

Emmanuel Gomez, a Metso employee and former co-op student from QCC, has made presentations to students and parents about the opportunities that exist in manufacturing. He talks about his journey through co-op education and what it has meant in his life. “The mindset about manufacturing is all wrong,” he says. “People think manufacturing is long gone and low paying, but on the contrary, my experience has been anything but that!” Emmanuel sits on an advisory board at QCC where they discuss how manufacturing is evolving and makes suggestions to help the college offer courses that match the skill sets employers need.  Knowledge-sharing from the co-op experience is key for both employees and students. “The Research & Development Lab at Metso has risen to new levels because of the products and processes that the students are learning about.” He says, “It makes us bring ourselves to a new level.”

Changed Perception
“Since the start of the Mass-TEC project we have seen a huge change among career influencers, not only in their attitudes and perceptions about manufacturing, but also in their behavior – what they are doing with the new information they have,” reports Carol King. “We knew it would be a struggle to get people to change their ideas, but parents are already talking to their kids,” she says.  “Career influencers now have new ideas of how to approach students about which education and career pathway to take. Today’s manufacturing is a combination of science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) – even more than in the past. The jobs pay well, are interesting, and have career-growth opportunity. Parents, teachers, guidance counselors, and career advisors learned this by attending Mass-TEC events.” These collaborations created more knowledge about pathways between high school and college to help students enter the STEM fields.

“Our diverse partnerships were a large part of our success,” adds Ms. King. “We could not have done all of this without our partners and collaborators. We had relationships with schools and community-based organizations to bring people together and to events, and a range of industry experts and specialists who provided thorough and accurate information to event attendees. Collaboration was key!”

Could Your Company Offer Co-Op?
According to Maureen Giacobbe from QCC’s Career Placement Services, “QCC has a formal co-op program and our department helps channel the students into the opportunities. Any company can offer co-op.” She adds, “For the most part, students are required to research and secure their own prospects. Career Placement Services provides resources and websites for students to reference. Once a student has identified an opportunity they register it with the office, then the staff and the student’s faculty advisor make sure it meets QCC’s criteria. The faculty advisor oversees the student throughout their co-op experience.”

Great for the economy, the community and the company
“Manufacturers provide training, mentoring and internships or co-ops and end up with trained employees to fill their gaps in the future. We select the students and provide them with a very job-specific education and hands-on experiences. The program is great for the local economy, the community and our company, plus, it gets students working!” David Bayreuther

For additional information about the Mass-TEC initiative, please contact Carol King, Mass-TEC Project Director at Quinsigamond Community College. 508-854-7526 or [email protected].
Or Kathy Rentsch, Principal Investigtor and Dean of Business and Technology, Quinsigamond Community College, 508-854-2712 or [email protected].



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