To understand how manufacturing in Rhode Island has changed over the last few decades,
look no further than CCRI’s new CNC Manufacturing Laboratory at its Liston Campus
The space is sparkling, well-lit and features advanced Computer Numerical Control (CNC) machines that can repeatedly produce complex three-dimensional shapes. This high level of precision is ideal for producing components that can be used in anything from smart phones to airplanes.
Of course, high-skilled employees are needed to operate these complex machines, and CCRI’s new lab will help employers fill these jobs.
"We thought computers were going to take over the work of the people, but we've found that they have actually enhanced the work of people," said Scott Jensen, director of the R.I. Department of Labor and Training. "After the experiences students have in here they'll go to the job market, and I think they are going to find they are in demand for real careers."
The CNC lab opened with a Dec. 14 ribbon cutting and will expand a manufacturing program that includes five certificates and two Associate in Science degree tracks in advanced manufacturing technology.
For students, the lab will make them more attractive to employers who are looking for highly skilled workers to handle these intricate machines. For employers, the lab could serve as a pipeline for employees who have a foundation in CNC machines and who understand manufacturing jobs look much different than they did decades ago.
"We constantly have to inform parents, teachers, and students that this is not your old school machine shop," said Dave Chenevert, president of Swissline Precision in Cumberland. "That’s critical to how we operate. I would suggest that if you are looking for a fulfilling career and want to make decent money, you should consider getting involved in a CNC program."
Rob Goodwin, owner of Goodwin Bradley in Providence, echoed this sentiment. He said computers are essential to his high-end machine shop that specializes in molds and rubber seals for the aerospace industry.
"What we need desperately are people who know how to operate computers and know how to operate these machines," Goodwin said. "In this lab they will learn the basics of what they would need to know to get started. This lab can provide the basic foundation for what we need."
Ferguson Perforating in Providence uses CNC machines to create solutions for industries ranging from aerospace and architecture to sugar refining. Ryan Clark, who attended CCRI from 1998 to 2002, oversees the company’s CNC operations.
"This is the foundation," Clark said. "This is the root of everything, and as you train on new equipment you can take yourself to another level." CCRI has recognized advanced manufacturing as a growing sector and has responded by investing in the facilities, equipment, degrees and certificates to meet those needs.
"Building a second manufacturing lab here at our Liston Campus opens up this career pathway to the more than 3,000 students we serve in this location every year," CCRI President Meghan Hughes said. "Those who otherwise might not have the means to get to Warwick now have training facilities right here in the heart of the great city of Providence."
Find out more about CCRI’s manufacturing and technology programs.