November 26, 2012
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Manufacturers Have Machining Jobs, So FRCC to Start Short-Term Training Classes

Responding to the needs of Northern Colorado manufacturers for qualified machinists, Front Range Community College is starting short-term non-credit training classes in February 2013 at the Career Development Center in Longmont.

Machinist at work

Courtesy Hirsh Precision

The Corporate Solutions Division of FRCC has met with more than 30 manufacturers in Northern Colorado to assess their hiring needs. The companies employ as few as three machinists to as many as 175. More than 90 percent of the manufacturers said they wanted to hire an average of five machinists in the next year. According to the Colorado Department of Labor and Employment, the median salary for machinists in 2011 was $19.62 per hour, or $40,800 per year. Entry-level salary was $13.42 per hour, or $27,908 per year.

The Challenge: Finding Qualified Applicants for Machinist Jobs.

“I tell the machine tool salesmen that I’d love to buy a new machine from them, but only if they can bring me the résumés of three qualified machinists,” says Bob Bergstrom, president of St. Vrain Manufacturing in Longmont. St. Vrain Manufacturing is a precision machine shop serving high tech, aerospace, telecom, and other industries.

Introduction to Machining.

Machinist at CNC keypad

Courtesy Intrex Aerospace

Working with a steering committee of manufacturers, FRCC is developing curriculum. The first class, Introduction to Machining, is an 81-hour class that covers such areas as safety, work ethic, introduction to machine tools, hand measurement, bench tools, shop math, blueprint reading, introduction to cutting tools, and manual mill and lathe.

Other classes in the sequence are Machining Operator Training, Advanced Machining, and Intermediate Quality Control for the Machine Shop. These more advanced classes would be appropriate for the person who completed the introductory course or for someone already in the industry who needs higher-level skills.

“They’ve got a great curriculum right on track for what this market needs,” said Pete Neidecker, executive vice president of Mountainside Medical in Boulder. The company is a contract manufacturer of complex, tight-tolerance medical products.

Machining Experts Developed Classes.

“We listened to industry,” said George Newman, FRCC program development coordinator for machining. “The content of the classes was developed by subject matter experts from the industry. It’s a combination of the ‘hard’ technical skills and the ‘soft’ skills needed for the work environment.”

The first class is split about 50-50 between classroom instruction and hands-on work in a state-of-the-art machining lab at the Career Development Center, a part of the St. Vrain Valley School District.

The class will meet from 6 to 9 p.m. Mondays and Wednesdays and 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. every other Saturday from Feb. 4, 2013, to April 20, 2013. The Longmont location for the class was chosen because of its central location within FRCC’s service area, which stretches from Westminster, Broomfield, and Brighton to the Wyoming border. These training classes are the only such classes north of Interstate 70.

“The average senior machinist is 55 to 60 years old,” Newman says. “We have at most a 10-year window to find replacements. If we don’t make a concerted effort to recruit new machinists, we will see the demise of the industry.”

Machining Brings Jobs Back to U.S.

And machining is one industry that is “reshoring” or “onshoring” rather than “offshoring.”

“In the past few years there has been a concerted effort to bring core manufacturing back to the United States, as long as the quality and price are competitive globally,” says Neidecker. “That’s very achievable.”

Machining today is not like your father’s or grandfather’s machine shop, Newman says.

“It’s a very exciting profession,” he says. “Machined parts are needed in the aerospace, defense, and medical instrument industries. There’s a machine shop in Northern Colorado that has some of its parts on Mars. This industry uses computers, and the machining is done in well-lit, clean, quiet, air-conditioned work spaces.”

To get on the mail list for more information, contact Veronica Chavez at veronica.chavez@frontrange.edu.


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About Front Range Community College

FRCC offers nearly 100 degree and certificate programs from locations in Boulder County, Larimer County, Westminster, and Brighton, and online.

FRCC is a member of the Colorado Community College System, the state’s largest system of higher education. CCCS serves more than 162,000 students annually. The system oversees career and academic programs in the 13 state community colleges and career and technical programs in more than 160 school districts and six other post-secondary institutions.

 

About the author:

John Feeley is director of public relations at Front Range Community College. He’s a somewhat-frequent bicycle commuter, a certified soccer referee, and a newspaper editor whose subscription ran out.

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