AMPed up about manufacturing
09/29/2013 by Michael McCord
PORTSMOUTH — When the inaugural N.H. Manufacturing Week kicks off Saturday, Oct. 5, the goal of organizers is to highlight the combination of a manufacturing sector revival and the establishment of a training and education infrastructure to help employers.
In fact, the effectiveness of training options developed through AMPed, the Advanced Manufacturing Partnerships in Education at the Community College System of New Hampshire, has so impressed a Rochester manufacturer that his international company is borrowing the template for use at a new plant in France.
"We don't do this kind of thing in France," said Michael Rigalle, vice president and general manager of Safran Aerospace Composites. "We are copying what we have done with Great Bay."
Safran and Albany Engineered Composites are partnering to develop new products for the aerospace industry but have also become a test case in deep collaboration between industry, education establishments and the economic development community. The opening in June of the Advanced Technology and Academic Center (ATAC) in Rochester by Great Bay Community College was the first step in what could be a cornerstone training process for future generations of manufacturing workers — an innovation to bring custom trained workers to the doorstep of manufacturers.
"It's a key to the success of our project because of our specific training needs," Rigalle said. "We have a different set of policies and very complex tasks for each employee. By building this training center before we hire, they will be trained and proficiently skilled to the processes we have."
Safran plans to hire 10 to 15 new workers later this year when the first class from ATAC completes its various certification programs in advanced manufacturing. ATAC student Kerri Uyeno, a single mother of three boys, will finish her certification program in December. Though she has worked in various manufacturing jobs in the past, including working for a shoe manufacturer in Dover in the late 1980s, Uyeno said going back to school for the first time in decades was a challenge and an opportunity she embraced.
"This is not the type of manufacturing work that I used to do," said Uyeno, who got into the ATAC through the state NH Works program after years of going from one temporary job to another. "The classes were in reading, math, computers, the ability to solve problems and introduction to composites. I was a little overwhelmed at first, but with a lot of help from the staff and tutors at ATAC, I feel confident. I can now calculate the areal weight of a fabric."
Uyeno said she never imagined herself going back to school but feels confident she has the training to land an advanced manufacturing job and "have a full-time job that pays enough to provide for my family."
Safran's partner, Albany Engineered Composites, will host a manufacturing week open house tour on Oct. 8 to show the community, potential workers and their families what the future of advanced manufacturing looks like.
"It's helpful for people to see the cleanliness and brightness of our facility and to dispel the myth that manufacturing is a dark and unpleasant place to work," said Susan Siegel, vice president of investor relations and corporate communications at Albany International.
Siegel said that since it announced its intent to relocate in Rochester in the fall of 2010, it has increased its staff by 84 percent and successfully addressed a longtime vexing problem for the company.
"We believe that talent is a competitive advantage, but we have struggled to develop an organizational approach to training," Siegel said. "Great Bay has been a true partner in this endeavor. We have plants all over the world and never in my 26 years of working for Albany have I seen anything like this, the level of collaboration and close partnership for training with a community college or any college."
Cliff Sinnott, executive director of the Rockingham Planning Commission in Exeter, said the industry-education partnership taking place at ATAC is more than a "good news story" because of its potential long-term impact.
"A region's economic development is a community enterprise, something that involves more than tax incentives," Sinnott said. "Work force development is a key component."
Great Bay Community College President Will Arvelo said the rapid development of ATAC, which is holding a N.H. Manufacturing Week Open House on Oct. 9, foretells many training programs for future partnerships.
"The Community College System of New Hampshire through Great Bay and its sister colleges will continue to respond to industry needs by partnering with employers to identify training needs," Arvelo said. "In Great Bay's case we will continue to focus on supporting the building of a manufacturing capacity in advanced composites manufacturing. There are a cluster of companies, including Albany Engineered Composites and Safran Aerospace Composites, that focus on this technology and we see an opportunity to make the New Hampshire Seacoast a home to grow this important technology."
Arvelo envisions a wide range of technological training at ATAC.
"We will teach other technologies such as computerized numerical controls, coordinate measuring machines and non-destructive testing that will serve other manufacturing sectors and companies such as Sig Sauer well into the future," he said.
Go & Do
Advanced Manufacturing Partnerships in Education N.H. open house
When: Oct. 9 from 4:30 to 7 p.m.
Where: Great Bay Community College's Advanced Technology & Academic Center, 5 Milton Road, Unit 32 (Room 138), Rochester
Details: Open house will feature students in the certificate program as they give live advanced composites demonstrations.
For more information: Call 427-7700 or visit http://ampednh.com.