Machinists in demand
Al Zagofsky/special to the times news With instructor Kevin Kuehner observing, John Halada, a sophomore in Carbon County Career & Technical Institute's Precision Machinery course, cycles through a program to check the set-up to carve a designer license plate into a -inch thick aluminum plate on a programable Bridgeport milling machine.
In a December 2011 survey of 3,000 manufacturing executives conducted by Cook Associated Executive Search, 85 percent see low-volume, high-precision, high-mix operations, automated manufacturing and engineered products requiring technology improvements or innovation as the primary forms of manufacturing returning to the States.
The good news is we're seeing an uptick in manufacturing in the U.S.
The bad news is we may not have enough skilled labor to meet the demand.
With February, which is National Technical Career and Technical Education month, nearly upon us, Peggy Kalogerakis, the Carbon County Career & Technical Institute's coordinator of school improvement, outlined some of the school's recent achievements. A building expansion has included the acquisition of state-of-the-art equipment for all departments, and led to the success of the Precision Machining department in working to provide a transition from school to employee in the machine shop trade through their co-op program.
Students in the Precision Machining program, as well as most programs at CCTI, can either go directly to work after graduating, or go to a college such as LCCC or Northampton where, through an articulation agreement, a number of their technical courses can receive college credit at no cost.
Either by going into industry directly from CCTI, or by getting advanced college training, "there is a demand for machinists," said CCTI Machine Shop instructor Kevin Kuehner. "We have five coop students at four local industries programing and operating lathes and milling machines. One of the companies has been so impressed with the quality that our coop students brought to programing the machinery that we were told that the company had significantly reduced costs, and was considering investing in additional machinery."
The increased demand for machinists is due both to retirements, with two experienced machinists retiring for every trained machinist available to enter the workforce; and from the uptick in demand for domestic production as a result of the increased costs for labor and fuel for foreign products.
Kuehner, who is a 1995 graduate of CCTI who became a foreman at Kovatch before returning to his alma mater, finds that unlike himself-he fixed things while growing up on a farm, and had two brothers that had taken the machine shop course-most kids today don't know what machinists do. "Guidance counselors don't know what precision equipment is," Kuehner noted.
"A lot of people don't know what machinists do," he continued. "We make things that people use every day."
As do the other departments at CCTI, the Precision Machining department tries to interest kids from sending schools during Open House visits. "We give them a tour of the shop and show them the parts that we make," Kuehner said. "We invite prospective students to visit the school and to shadow one of our students for a day."
Kuehner felt that any student with a good work ethic, with good math skills, with an interest in what they do, and enjoy working with their hands should consider Precision Machining.
"Our graduates get jobs," Kuehner said.
Precision Machinery has a close relationship to several of CCTI's other programs, such as Drafting and Design Technology, where parts can be design for machining; welding, where machined component parts can be fused into assemblies; and Auto Collision and Repair, where assemblies can be used to repair cars.
Another high-tech area at CCTI is Electrical Construction and Maintenance where students are training to become electricians for home construction, or master electricians, working with anywhere from microprocessor-based programable logic controllers for industrial construction to four-inch conduit.
Gradates of the Electrical Construction and Maintenance program learn to work with devices that control the operation of pneumatic cylinders, hydraulic cylinders, temperature, position and speed of a manufacturing operation, and can install and repair production equipment in large factories and packaging plants.
The demand for U.S. manufacturing is on the rise. Will we be able to respond?
CCTI is there for young people who see their future in a technical career.
(For additional information, see: carboncti.org)