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Manufacturing education returns to BOCES

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To meet growing demands and changing professional standards in manufacturing, the Jefferson-Lewis Board of Cooperative Educational Services has reintroduced a course to meet new computer standards in manufacturing technology.

“That field has changed so much over the years the demand is exceptional,” said Jefferson-Lewis BOCES Superintendent Jack J. Boak.

The demand for the program, which was cut by BOCES more than 10 years ago, has grown. The new adult and continuing education program in manufacturing technology began Monday and will run through June 23. Mr. Boak said there is a waiting list for another course to be held in the fall.

Mr. Boak said the manufacturing field was viewed as a “dark, dingy and dirty trade.” But area manufacturers have expressed new demands for education in the field, searching for candidates who are comfortable with computer techonology.

The course will focus heavily on blueprint reading, safety, how to use trigonometry and geometric tolerancing, identification of varying types of metals and how their composition reacts to different stress and chemical combinations, and how to use measuring tools to check work.

Course instructor Craig M. Perry said the turnover in the manufacturing industry has employees with more than 35 years experience leaving the workforce, so incoming employees can’t learn from their experience. Mr. Perry said this course is designed to close the gap. In a survey by the National Association of Manufacturers, 67 percent of manufacturers reported a moderate to severe shortage of available, qualified workers.

Mr. Perry said the mechanics of the industry are moving from individual manual tasks to using machines that use computer technology to complete multiple tasks.

Mr. Boak said the class filled quickly, with area employers sponsoring their employees for the $3,000 course tuition. Mr. Boak said a similar course for high school students is planned.

“In our surveys, one-on-one meetings and various forums with manufacturers, the most common issue we hear about is the lack of qualified candidates for manufacturing jobs,” wrote David J. Zembiec, deputy CEO of the Jefferson County Local Development Corp. “Our manufacturing council was able to bring the right people together to help BOCES develop the program, and I was amazed by the collaboration that took off from there.”

Mr. Boak said the manufacturing council included representatives from several manufacturers, BOCES, JCLDC and the Workforce Investment Board. BOCES developed the program with input from the manufacturers, who also assisted in the interview process for Mr. Perry. Although BOCES already owned two HAAS computer numerically controlled machines, the manufacturing representatives insisted on the need for students to have hands-on experience with traditional machining equipment. To make that happen, Current Applications donated a Bridgeport mill and Clausing lathes, while New York Air Brake donated cutting tools and a tool presetter machine. Although used, that equipment totaled nearly $60,000 in value. Several manufacturers have also said they will contribute scrap material on which the students can practice. The program also received seed funding for various supplies and instructional needs from the Jefferson County Industrial Development Agency, the Development Authority of the North Country and the Workforce Development Institute.

Mr. Boak said the support has allowed BOCES to offer the program. He said the monetary support helped with the up-front investments necessary to initiate the course and to create the instructional space.

“We are now positioned to make the course self-sustaining from this point forward,” Mr. Boak said.

The Jefferson-Lewis Workforce Investment Board also received a state Department of Labor grant to cover tuition for qualified individuals enrolling in the spring or fall offerings for the program.

The class will incorporate “flight simulator” software technology to provide students with virtual experience on machines prior to working with actual materials.

Mr. Boak said the program will help to strengthen manufacturing in the north country by developing the workforce necessary help employers remain competitive and grow.

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