State and federal officials will join representatives from local manufacturing companies at Tri-County Regional Vocational Technical High School on Friday, March 27, for a roundtable discussion about the state of the advanced manufacturing industry and its ever-growing need for skilled workers.
The roundtable, hosted by Tri-County administrators, Representative John Fernandes (D-Milford), and Representative Jeffrey Roy (D-Franklin), will begin at 8:45 a.m. in the school’s library.
U.S. Representative Joseph P. Kennedy III and Massachusetts Secretary of Housing and Economic Development Jay Ash are among the officials who will be in attendance. They will be joined by representatives from the 495/MetroWest Partnership, MassDevelopment, and National Grid. Manufacturers from all of Tri-County’s 11 sending towns will also be in attendance.
“As you know, manufacturing is vitally important to the Massachusetts economy,” said Representative Roy. “It is the sixth largest employment sector here, and is helping to lead us out of the recession. In Massachusetts, manufacturing contributes to more than 10 percent of gross state product (GSP). Currently there are 7,680 manufacturing establishments in Massachusetts that employ more than 275,000 residents. Over the next five years, manufacturing establishments are expected to expand their employment by an estimated 65 percent. In order to sustain this growth, we need to help by developing a strong nexus between educational and training opportunities and the specialized worker skills required by these companies to ultimately succeed.”
This will be the third roundtable held at Tri-County in just over a year. Previous meetings focused on addressing the skilled labor shortage in Massachusetts. This year’s event will focus on progress made since those roundtables and the work that still needs to be done.
“The Tri-County manufacturing roundtables have been very successful. It is a great opportunity to bring manufacturers, educators, and legislators together to address the anomaly of manufacturing in Massachusetts – plenty of good jobs exist, but manufacturers can’t find enough appropriately-trained people to fill them,” said Representative Fernandes, Founder and Chairman of the Joint Bi-Partisan Legislative Manufacturing Caucus. “With collaborative efforts like these, we are beginning to see concrete solutions take shape.”
Tri-County used recommendations from the previous roundtables to purchase manufacturing equipment in fall 2014. The CNC Toolroom Vertical Machining Center and the CNC Toolroom Turning Center were purchased through the FY14 Vocational Opportunity Challenge (VOC) Grant.
Shortly after purchasing the equipment, Tri-County partnered with the Wentworth Institute of Technology. In January, the college launched its first class in Tri-County’s newly renovated advanced manufacturing facility. Instructor Bob Vozzella said some of his students drive more than an hour to take the 15-week Machine Tool Setup and Operation course.
The new equipment will also be used by the high school’s Engineering Technology Program. The program uses a hands-on exploratory approach with state-of-the-art technologies and tools to introduce students to various engineering concepts. This machinery will allow the instructors to implement advanced manufacturing concepts as part of their curriculum.
“The equipment will not be idle during the day, since the Engineering students will be trained to use code to design and create parts for projects. Our robotics team at times will need to create unique parts, and having this equipment will be invaluable. These two machines are of the highest industry standard, and will offer one more career pathway for students in the Engineering program,” said Jean George, Tri-County’s Vocational Coordinator.
While the two machines are a good start, the school hopes to add more equipment and expand its operations.
“Hopefully, the roundtable will allow Tri-County to highlight how much we have accomplished with two new machines in a short period of time,” said Tri-County Superintendent-Director Stephen Dockray. “Our goal is to partner with the state and local manufacturing firms to provide a high quality Advanced Manufacturing Program and begin to provide the skilled labor force that is so badly needed.”