'Cliff' weighs in on America's future: At lab stresses we must continue to manufacture things

10/03/2014 by Liz Markhlevskaya

ROCHESTER — John Ratzenberger may have made his career in acting, but in Rochester on Thursday, he said it is skills in manufacturing — not the arts — that are essential to the American future.

“If we can't make things,” he said, “that's the end of our civilization.”

In addition to having played Cliff Clavin on the show Cheers, Ratzenberger for several years hosted the cable program, “Made in America,” in which he toured various manufacturing facilities across the country.

On Thursday, he toured the advanced composites lab at Rochester's Advanced Technology & Academic Center, a satellite of Great Bay Community College.

There, students of all ages were using the same type of machinery being used at hi-tech companies in the area, such as Albany Engineered Composites and Safran Aerospace Composites, which recently began operating a joint advanced manufacturing plant in Rochester. The companies are planning to hire hundreds of a new skilled workers for the plant. 

As he toured the composites lab Thursday, Ratzenberger said, “It is really heartening to see young people realizing the future is in manufacturing.” 

“All the people who went to liberal arts schools, who are waiting on tables ... I think they're figuring it out now,” he said “The real money is going to be in handmade skills.”

Speaking about his own life, Ratzenberger said it was the carpentry skills he learned at a young age that enabled him to become an actor, knowing the hands-on trade could get him a job anywhere he went.

“When I was 14, I decided to learn to build a house and everything in it. And I did,” said Ratzenberger, adding it gave him a great sense of pride.

He said the skills that students are learning at the advanced composites lab can take students anywhere in the world.

“What we do here is very interesting, it is very high-end,” said advanced composites instructor Brett Blanchard.

Ratzenberger toured the lab Thursday shortly before being featured as a guest speaker at the third annual Distinguished Leaders Award event, which is the Great Bay Community College's largest fundraiser.

The Distinguished Leaders Award was presented to Sig Sauer, at Wentworth by the Sea Hotel in New Castle. 

Great Bay Community College President Will Arvello said that over the years, the college has partnered with Sig Sauer for customized training for their employees.

Recently, the company began providing space in its Newington headquarters to allow Great Bay to build a Computerized Numerical Control (CNC) lab, being used to train CNC operators for Sig Sauer.

Paul Holloway, chairman of the Community College System board of trustees, said New Hampshire's community college students “are from all walks of life — young students just starting out, career changers, veterans, those with advanced degrees that come to us for the training to get jobs and a shifting economy.

“The best part is our graduates stay in New Hampshire. They become economic contributors and future leaders.”