Workforce development experts say Massachusetts needs more people trained for jobs in precision manufacturing. The state is devoting money to the effort.
Springfield Technical Community College recently spent $2 million to upgrade and expand classrooms in its Mechanical Engineering Technology center. The college received a $1.2 million dollar grant from the state. But it came with one string attached. The college had to double the number of students enrolled in the program that prepares people for careers in manufacturing.
Massachusetts Economic Affairs Secretary Greg Bialecki, who toured the new classrooms at STCC on Thursday, said the state funding is an example of a targeted investment to grow the economy.
With the state grant and money from the college’s own funds the Mechanical Engineering Technology program expanded from 6 to 16 machines for students to learn to operate. It also purchased a 3D printer and new computers.
The number of students enrolled this semester doubled to 100, but that is still far short of the industry demand, according to the STCC Dean of Engineering Technologies Adrienne Smith.
Ed Leyden, co-chair of the Advanced Manufacturing Collaborative of Massachusetts said it is projected the state will need to train 100,000 people over the next decade to work in precision manufacturing just to maintain the current level of production.
Leyden who owns a company in Holyoke that makes precision parts for jet engine manufacturers, power stations, and defense contractors said it is a challenge to get young people interested in careers in manufacturing because it is perceived to be a “ dirty dying trade.” The average age of the manufacturing workforce is 53.
Workforce development experts say another challenge is convincing more women to train for manufacturing jobs. The sector is overwhelmingly dominated by men.