Northeast Technology Center’s Afton Campus was recently awarded a $15,000 grant from the Gene Haas Foundation to improve its CNC machining program. The grant funds are part of a new partnership to provide schools and training centers with cutting-edge educational materials to inspire students and provide pathways to advanced manufacturing careers.
“The Haas Foundation is supportive of schools that train in manufacturing,” said Johnnie Austin, Sales Engineer for Timco Machine Tools. “If you go into just about any shop across nation, you will see Haas equipment. That’s largely because of their commitment to education. The company offers free training to educators as well as discounts on equipment for schools.”
Timco Machine Tools is the Oklahoma dealer for Haas equipment, and on the day of the check presentation, Austin was joined by several NTC staff members and students. One student, Ruben Espinosa, was especially excited to be present for the award.
“I’m a homeless veteran from Wichita, Kansas, and I learned about the program through the Miami Workforce,” Espinosa said. “I can’t understand why more kids in this area aren’t excited about this program. When I graduate, I plan to get a used CNC machine and start my own business.”
One of Espinosa’s classmates, Kyle Davis of Miami, was also pleased to see his program receive additional funding.
“I did some research and heard that this was a great school, so I came, and it is,” said Davis. “I like to learn – this is my second vocational trade – and when I finish the program, I plan to work as a machinist making water jets in Baxter Springs.”
Also on hand for the presentation were NTC Afton’s Adult Education Program Director Mike Reece, CNC Machining Instructor Gene Schmeling, and NTC’s Manufacturing Agent Mike Mitchell.
“This is the second year in a row we’ve received a Haas Grant, but since the money cannot be used to purchase Haas equipment, we’re planning to do a little brainstorming on how we will spend the money,” Reece said. “Most of it will be spent in retooling our machines and offering scholarships to students, but we also want to make sure our curriculum is keeping pace with employer needs.”
And that’s where NTC’s manufacturing agent joins the equation.
“Right now I have five manufacturers who are looking to hire experienced machinists,” Mitchell said as he shared business cards with Espinosa and Davis. “There is a massive skills gap for this trade in this area, and machinists can make a good living.”
NTC’s Afton Campus started offering manufacturing classes in CNC programming, operations and projects in late 2013. The classes were added in response to members of the Manufacturing Alliance expressing a need for future employees to have some hands-on training in the field prior to seeking employment with their companies. Some manufacturers in the area even voiced a demand for expanding operations in the future if the properly-trained workforce is available.
“We would love to move into day classes for high school students in addition to the adult evening classes we currently offer, but it would take another three to four hundred thousand dollars in funding to fully equip a full-size shop,” said Schmeling.
NTC’s training options are a fit for anyone interested in acquiring skills that would make them marketable to work in the manufacturing industry. Students are trained on simulators, lathes, mills, a metal cutting bandsaw, measurement and calibration tools, drill presses, a Haas CNC vertical lathe and a Haas CNC vertical mill.
“Right now we cover blueprint reading, CNC set up and operation, and we do two separate classes on programming,” Schmeling said. “We’re hoping to add training in Solid Works, which is a 3D modeling software that’s in high demand among employers.”
The current CNC Machining class will conclude in June, and the next class will begin in August. Enrollment for the new semester is not yet open, but those with questions can contact the NTC Afton Adult Education Office at 918-257-8324.