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Event showcases college's high-tech
manufacturing programs, lab
Oct. 11, 2013
Local manufacturers as well as representatives from the state’s Rhode Island Manufacturers Association (RIMA), the Rhode Island Manufacturer’s Extension Service (RIMES), and the Governor’s Workforce Board gathered on CCRI’s Knight Campus Oct. 4 to talk about the state’s future in the resurgence of the country’s manufacturing industry.
By all accounts, that future is looking brighter than ever, thanks in part to two new certificate programs designed by CCRI in response to the specific needs of local manufacturers.
“CCRI is clearly one of the pieces of the workforce training puzzle,” said Bill McCourt, executive director of RIMA. “They have a terrific training facility,” he added, lauding the flexibility and responsiveness of the CCRI officials and faculty who made the redesign of the manufacturing programs a priority.
McCourt was on hand as part of a reception organized by RIMES as part of National Manufacturing Day. He, along with CCRI President Ray Di Pasquale, House Majority Leader Nicholas A. Mattiello, RIMES CEO Harsha Prakash, and Rick Brooks, executive director of the Governor’s Workforce Board, addressed a healthy crowd gathered that afternoon at CCRI following a tour of the college’s 5,000-square-foot integrated manufacturing lab.
Peter Woodberry, dean of Business, Science and Technology at the college, said approximately 50 people joined the tour of the facilities, some for the first time. Engineering Department Chairman Jerry Bernardini said that the tour showcased CCRI’s traditional manufacturing training equipment as well as the recent investments that the college has made in simulated training panels for CNC machines and 3-D printing and precision measurement machinery.
“I think it was a great success,” said Woodberry. “Everyone who attended really enjoyed seeing the lab, meeting the faculty, and networking with each other. Everyone was really excited to be there – some of the local manufacturers were seeing the lab for the first time.”
Woodberry stressed the importance of forging these connections with the state’s manufacturers; according to the latest statistics from the Department of Labor and Training, Rhode Island has 40,000 manufacturing jobs on its rolls at the moment. All of the speakers that afternoon called attention to the fact that those jobs are not the manufacturing jobs of the past, but rather highly skilled positions opening up in a changing, growing field. New technology has created a need to invest in retraining current workers, as well, and that’s also where CCRI comes in.
To that end, Woodberry said that, before redesigning its curriculum and presenting the two new certificate programs (Introduction to CNC Manufacturing and CNC Manufacturing/3-D Modeling) the college submitted learning outcomes to RIMES, which in turn forwarded the outcomes to a skills commission in Texas, where they were analyzed against the specific tasks required of these new manufacturing jobs, and “found a very high correlation between the thrust of our program and the needs of the new work environment.”
Starting this semester, students will be able to enroll in the two certificate programs, which are focused on CNC, or computer numerically controlled, technology. Unlike manufacturing jobs of the past, where components were manually forged, modern components are designed, blueprinted and executed entirely by computers. In addition to their work at CCRI, students completing these certificates will gain invaluable experience in the field at local manufacturing companies.
Di Pasquale said that it was important to the college that it truly creates programs that would help train its students for jobs, particularly as the economy continues to be a challenge for the record numbers of students enrolling in CCRI’s programs. “We need to steer these students to good training and good jobs,” he said. “And this is the future for our state.”
“We need to improve our manufacturing industry if we are going to revitalize the economy,” agreed Mattiello, who emphasized that the lawmakers in Rhode Island are continuously working to make helpful changes and to push for funding on behalf of the manufacturers and promoting them as a crucial asset. “And community colleges are a tremendous resource.”
Woodberry said that he hoped that students seeking training for highly skilled jobs, as well as workers in the industry looking to close a skills gap, would look to the college’s offerings as “spot-on for preparing them for the kinds of knowledge they’ll be asked to apply to be successful.”
For more information about CCRI’s Engineering and Technology Department or to enroll in the certificate programs mentioned in this article, visit the website.
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