Housatonic Community College has kicked off the first-ever spring cohort for its advanced manufacturing program, an eight-month initiative that provides students with technical skills needed to secure internship placements and gain entry-level positions as machinists.
Adam Scobie, the program’s coordinator, noted that the program has been a staple of HCC’s fall semester, but several circumstances kept it from having it be available in the spring.
“It’s something that we’ve always wanted to try to do in our program.,” Scobie said. “A lot of it came down to recruitment and staffing. Most people see this advertised as a fall program, so we’ve been trying really hard to pull in students for the spring. With staffing, our team has grown a lot in the last few years, and that’s allowed us to take on more students, which requires more hours on campus.
According to Scobie, the eight-month endeavor is a two-semester “hands-on program” that introduces students to machine technology and then to computer numerical control, which allows for handling machining tools and 3-D printers via computer.
“You’ll spend a little bit of time in lecture for those classes each week and then you’ll spend close to 12 to 15 hours each week in the lab, actually turning handles cutting machine or cutting metal yourself,” Scobie continued. “The other classes that we offer support the theory behind manufacturing: we have classes on blueprint reading, metrology and on SolidWorks, which is a computer-aided design. This teaches students the engineering side of manufacturing, how to make solid models, how to make blueprints from the solid models, and then eventually it leads into 3-D printing.”
Students in the program are also required to take manufacturing math courses, which Scobie acknowledge is “difficult, but it’s not super difficult. We start off with the basics, and then by the end of the school year our students are doing trig.” Classes in geometric dimensioning and tolerancing are also part of the curriculum.
Students that emerge from the first semester with a 3.0 grade point average can proceed into the second semester, where HCC helps place them into internships. Scobie estimated that “eight to nine times out of 10” a student’s internship leads to a job offer before the program is over and the school will work to place those who conclude the program without securing employment.
“While we guarantee our interviews, you still have to sit down and sell yourself,” he said. “But we will line you up with as many manufacturers as we need to until you land a job.”
Classes are being held during the evenings at HCC’s Bridgeport campus, with Scobie adding that “as long Housatonic as a whole doesn’t shut down, we’ll be in person.” The spring program has 10 students. Previous classes had between 20 and 22, but social distancing protocols and room capacity limits have reduced the usual student volume.
“I have about six appointments this week with interested students,” Scobie said. “Even if I get half of those, we will be up to the head count that we need.”
One of the students in the spring program is Stamford resident Chris Hutchinson.
“I was a hotel worker for the last three years, but with the Covid crisis, I was laid off in March,” he said. “I saw the program at HCC for advanced manufacturing and said this is the perfect time for me to attend this program. When I was laid off, it was important to me to try to find work in an industry that had a growing future. When I looked at the growth of the manufacturing industry in this state, there was no question that manufacturing was the place to be.”
Hutchinson added it was “really exciting to dive right in and feel like you’re a part of the production process, manufacturing the parts that customers are going to need. I’m really looking forward to a career in manufacturing. To me, my future looks much brighter than it did six months ago.”