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ACM program to quadruple in Rochester by 2015

Sunday News Correspondent

July 19. 2014 9:36PM
Julie Lapierre, a teacher's assistant at Great Bay Community College's Advanced Technology & Academic Center in Rochester, operates a coordinate measuring machine used in quality control functions during the high-tech manufacturing process. (COURTESY)

- In order to prepare the future workforce, Great Bay Community College plans to start expanding its facility to teach high-technology manufacturing skills this year.

Last May, Great Bay, which is based in Portsmouth, opened its 17,000-square-foot Advanced Technology & Academic Center (ATAC) at 5 Milton Road - Route 125 - in the Lilac Mall plaza.

Beginning in October, construction is expected to start on a new 10,000-square foot facility that will add one general science laboratory, four classrooms and student lounge space in units previously occupied by other businesses in an adjacent part of the building at the Lilac Mall. The project is expected to be complete and ready for students by February.

The expansion will allow the college to quadruple the number of graduates of the advanced composites manufacturing (ACM) each year, according to Debra Mattson, curriculum designer for GBCC.

"We need to graduate at least 200 students a year to meet demand for a growing workforce," Mattson said in a release. "Most of that need is local - primarily from our Advanced Manufacturing Partnerships in Education industry partners Albany and Safran Aerospace Composites, we're also getting calls from as far away as North Carolina and Michigan. They're looking for people with the exact skills we're teaching."

In March, Safran Aerospace Composites (SAC) and Albany Engineered Composites (AEC) began operations at their new 300,000-square-foot plant at Granite State Business Park, which is located on Route 108 just south of Skyhaven Airport. The facility and its sister plant in France produce advanced composite parts of aircraft engines.

As a result, of the demand for their advanced composite blades that help power the LEAP-X - which will help power a new generation of aircraft engines - the two companies plan to expand their local workforce by about 400 employees by 2020 to keep up with the demand to make 30,000 aircraft engine blades annually.

As the advanced composites manufacturing industry continues to grow, both around the region and across the world, the expansion at ATAC "is absolutely necessary" according to Mattson.

Area manufacturers both large and small have been expanding but have struggled to find qualified candidates in the Seacoast.

Since the ACM course began in June of 2013, 67 students have enrolled at ATAC. Of those, 20 have graduated, 17 are set to complete their studies in August and 14 continue to pursue the six-month course.

Another 30 students will begin the course this fall and four entered the Associate Degree in Technical Studies program, where they plan to continue their studies post ACM certificate, according to Desiree Crossley, outreach coordinator for the Advanced Manufacturing Partnerships in Education (AMPed) program.

"The addition is needed to help us meet the needs for the six-month ACM certificate program. We are also adding additional courses. Since we are adding a second composites lab, we will need some basic equipment, but the larger items currently housed in the existing lab are sufficient," Crossley said.

The new lab space will house introductory manufacturing skills courses covering an overview of composites material and process, while advanced skills will be taught in the current lab space, which contains cutting-edge equipment such as a 5-axis computer-numerical-controlled (CNC) machines, coordinate measuring machine, 3-D composites weaving loom, resin-transfer molding equipment, industrial autoclave, a clean room and more.

The center also offers a CNC simulation classroom and 3-D printing and design technologies. It will also allow for evening and Saturday classes, making for a more accessible education for students, according to the release.

"As we grow we are adding full time faculty, full-time lab assistants, and adjunct instructors from area businesses," Crossley said in an e-mail.

Mattson said the partnership between Great Bay and area industries couldn't be better.

"It's amazing, especially given that this hasn't been done before," Mattson said, adding the program enables graduates to obtain a job in a high-paying career.

ATAC was funded as part of a $19.97 million grant from the U.S. Department of Labor Employment and Training Administration grant that was provided to Great Bay and its six sister schools in the Community College System of New Hampshire.

The AMPed New Hampshire program partners the seven colleges with industries, state and federal agencies to link education with business.

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