Gov. Deval Patrick celebrates start of Springfield Technical Community College/ Holyoke Community College/ UMass manufacturing skills program
SPRINGFIELD – Gov. Deval Patrick visited a 10-week advanced manufacturing skills training program at Springfield Technical Community College Friday and celebrated the $90,000 in private funding that got the program up and running.
“What we are seeing is a quiet renaissance in manufacturing, particularly in precision manufacturing,” Patrick said during a visit to the Smith & Wesson Technology Applications Center, a machine-tool lab and classroom complex at the Springfield Technology Park.
Patrick said manufacturing is growing in Massachusetts 50 percent more quickly than in the rest of the nation as a whole.
“The challenge to us to to prepare for it,” Patrick said.
The manufacturing program, now in its second week, is a cooperative effort between Springfield Technical Community College, Holyoke Community College and the University of Massachusetts new Springfield center in Tower Square, said Jeffrey P. Hayden, executive director of the Kittredge Center for Business and Workforce Development. So far there are 20 students in classes at STCC in a session that runs to Sept. 2. In the fall, there will be 20 more at Holyoke Community College followed by another 20, possibly, at the UMass Center in Tower Square.
The idea, Hayden said, is to take students from adult basic education programs where they learn math and English and get them ready for entry-level jobs at area manufacturers.
The curriculum, developed with the help of industry leaders like Smith & Wesson, Savage Arms and Gulfstream Aerospace in Westfield and Universal Plastics in Holyoke, includes blueprint reading and creation , both electronic and on paper, said John LaFrancis, a professor of mechanical engineering at Springfield Technical Community College.
“Then how do we take that blueprint that exists only on paper or in an electronic file and make a part,” LaFrancis said. “Then once we have made that part, how do we know we made a good part? That’s why we teach basic part inspection.”
Student Manuel Melendez, 30 of Springfield, hopes to start a two-year mechanical engineering associates degree program once this certificate-level program is over.
“It’s a great industry,” he said. “There are jobs all over, Springfield, Holyoke, Connecticut.”
Dan Fontaine, director of manufacturing for Smith & Wesson, said he’s sent entry-level employees to the STCC program for more training so they can take on a bigger role. Smith & Wesson has about 1,100 manufacturing employees in Springfield.
“Obviously, our business has expanded greatly in the past few years,” Fontaine said. That doesn’t take into consideration the number of our employees who will be retiring. that’s why it is important for us to build this pipeline.”
The $90,000 in grants to fund the program comes from private sources including The Massachusetts Competitive Partnership: a group of the 16 largest employers in the state including MassMutual Financial Group. MassMutual itself and Suffolk Construction also contributed.
The idea is to help industry grow by getting people who need jobs trained to fill jobs, said Roger W. Crandall
“We are convinced this investment will make a lot of sense,” Crandall said.
Suffolk Construction CEO John Fish said that even though the economy is improving, the middle class in Massachusetts is hollowing out with two few good middle-class jobs available. Fish also serves as chairman of the Greater Boston Chamber of Commerce.
“This program attacks that issue at the core problem,” he said.
A difference in annual income between a high-school diploma and a certificate in advanced manufacturing averages $10,00 a year, said Holyoke Community College President William Messner.That’s just after completing this program.
Massachusetts industry is expected to fill 100,000 manufacturing jobs in the next decade with annual salaries averaging $75,000 taking all levels of experience and training into account.
This was not Patrick’s first visit to the Smith & Wesson Technology Applications Center. He visited in 2013 to talk about state funding for college educations. The state helped fund the center with $1.2 million, also in 2013.