A program that would allow students to get hands-on experience and training in advanced manufacturing will be on display Oct. 9.
On that day community colleges across the state will open their doors to the public and potential students to check out the results of the $20 million AMPedNH project. The open houses are part of New Hampshire Manufacturing Week.
"Manufacturing has been on the tip of the tongue for everyone from lawmakers to workforce developers to industry leaders to educators from the Oval Office to the grassroots level," said Desiree Crossley, a spokeswoman for the project who also participates in grant administration. "Now industry leaders and educational institutions have the chance to invite the public through their doors and really show — not simply tell — how manufacturing has morphed into a high-tech economic and career-building giant that requires employees with cutting-edge science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) skills."
According to the Economic and Labor Market Information Bureau, the average weekly pay for New Hampshire workers in the private manufacturing sector was $1,050, or 22 percent above the $825 average of all private sectors in the state. However, there's a skills gap.
To bridge that gap, the goal of the program, which stands for Advanced Manufacturing Partnerships in Education New Hampshire initiative, is using a $20 million federal grant provided by the U.S. Department of Labor Employment and Training Administration to offer training to potential workers.
As part of the AMPedNH program, trainees can take short, non-credit courses targeted to the specific needs of a company or industry that can be delivered on site or at local community colleges.
At the community college level, the idea is to create a learning environment that allows the student to go from classroom to factory seamlessly. Across the state, community college labs have the ability to train students in sectors like robotics and automation; electronics and electromechanics; advanced machine tool technologies; advanced welding; advanced composites and engineering; and programming.
In Nashua, there's already been some success, said Jonathan Mason, the grant project coordinator for Nashua Community College.
"The majority of our class that graduated last spring already have jobs," Mason said. "Out of 20 students, 17 that I know of are working. One of them went on to a four-year school and UMass Lowell. So we've had a ton of success, and we have 50 first-year students right now. "
Mason said they've tried to stock their lab with equipment that mirrors machines found in local manufacturing plants. To that end, Mason said that at the Nashua open house they plan to showcase a 3-D printer to demonstrate the difference between the Computer Numerical Control— or CNC — machines of today and those of decades past. The CNC machines are those that control the automation at an advanced manufacturing facility.
At River Valley Community College, grant coordinator Bob Stillings said they will discuss their STAR program and share details on what the manufacturing boot camp is all about. Both will be available in the spring,
"Most programs are set up as two-year programs," Stillings said. "(At River Valley) within 20 weeks they can go from being a novice to running a machine."
For the rest of the community colleges, the Oct. 9 open houses will include the following:
Great Bay Community College, 5 Milton Road, Unit 32 (Room 138), Advanced Technology & Academic Center in Rochester. From 4:30 to 7 p.m. there will be a talk to students in the certificate program in conjunction with live advanced composites demonstrations.
Lakes Region Community College, 379 Belmont Road, bottom floor, Center for Arts and Technology in Laconia, from 5 to 7 p.m. there will be a celebration of STEM programs.
Manchester Community College, 1066 Front St. From 4 to 7 p.m. students and the public will meet the "Blue Man Group," which helps students learn about mechatronics and automation in an environment that models the full design and production process of an actual advanced manufacturer.
New Hampshire Technical Institute, 31 College Drive, Concord. From 4 to 7 p.m. NHTI's robotic arms will be on display as the public learns about the engineering programs offered there.
White Mountains Community College, 2020 Riverside Drive, Berlin. From 4 to 7 p.m. the public can check out virtual welding stations, which officials describe as a cross between immersive video game and professional training.
For more information visit ampednh.com.