Regional program grows new careers in precision machining

February 27, 2014

Just a few months after the end of a new 12-week training program, eight students are employed by area companies and one is launching his own precision machining business. Gerald Barsh and Nathan Beauregard have launched new careers in precision machining thanks to the Middle Skills Manufacturing Initiative (MSMI), a training program and collaborative project involving area manufacturing companies, GCC, Franklin County Technical School, the Franklin Hampshire Regional Employment Board, and the Career Center. Gerald now works at DuMont Company in Greenfield and Nathan works at Bete Fog Nozzle. They were two of 15 unemployed and underemployed students in the first of four cohorts that will attend the program.

“Students in the MSMI training learned hands-on skills on new CNC lathes and mills taught by a team of dedicated instructors from Franklin County Technical School and four precision manufacturers,” explained Alyce Stiles, Director of Workforce Development at GCC.

Gerald, 41, of Hatfield, had always worked as a cook and in the food industry, but had taken some engineering and AutoCAD courses at GCC. MSMI introduced him to the machining field and MSMI introduced him to the machining field and helped to place him as an intern at DuMont. Following graduation, he was hired full-time using On the Job Training (OJT) funds that encourage businesses to hire veterans and long-term unemployed workers. Gerald now works in an entry-level job in the production department, producing broaches, parts that are used to help cut and shape other material. He learned about metrology in the MSMI program and uses that understanding of precision and accuracy in measurements in his job.

Gerald said, “Prior to the MSMI program, I had spent about 30 seconds in a manufacturing shop environment. This program was one of the most tremendous experiences of my life. The MSMI helped me get the skills I needed to get a job in this field. The company I work for is expanding and many people in this field will soon retire. I have the skills to be able to move ahead in the field.”

Nathan Beauregard, 40, of Greenfield enjoyed his 20 years of work as a farmhand, but was looking for higher-paying steady work. He had taken several GCC Community Education courses as part of the Adult Educational Program with Franklin County Technical School, including Introduction to Machine Science. At Bete Fog Nozzle, Nathan operates a Haas lathe and is learning about testing nozzles.

Nathan said, “Along with helping me start a new career, I like that this program trains folks to do a job that this valley had MANY people doing, historically. I am glad to be part of the resurgence of this type of work in this area.”

Michael Baines, Project Coordinator for MSMI at the Regional Employment Board said, “Area precision machining employers realize their workforce includes many people who will retire soon and they don’t have the infrastructure to do their own training. The MSMI program is a great collaborative regional response to prevent a crisis. Precision machining is bringing jobs to this area, jobs with a bright future that pay a good wage.”

Students in the Fall 2013 MSMI cohort ranged in age from 22 to 59 years old. While all of the Fall cohort were male, four of the 14 students enrolled in the Spring MSMI program are women. The Spring cohort started Feb. 3 and recruitment for the Fall semester will start in June. There will be a strong focus on recruitment of qualified 18-24 year-olds without degrees for the fall program.

MSMI is funded by a Workforce Competitiveness Trust Fund grant through the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, Executive Office of Labor and Workforce Development. The grant program is administered at the state level by Commonwealth Corporation. The project funds training programs for four cohorts of students. Development of a new, project-based curriculum, including online instructional trainings, is provided by the MA Community Colleges & Workforce Development Transformation Agenda (MCCWDTA), which is 100% funded through a $20 million grant from the U.S. Dept. of Labor, Employment & Training Administration TAACCT.

Lead Employers VSS, Inc. and Bete Fog Nozzle contributed to the training plan, and an additional 12 employers signed on to support the training program, including Amherst Machine, Applied Dynamics, Argotec, the DuMont Company LLC, Hassay Savage Company, Mayhew Steel Products, Montague Machine, Poplar Hill Machine, L.S.Starrett, Rodney Hunt, Sisson Engineering, and SmallCorp. Many additional employers contributed substantially to a fund to upgrade the Franklin County Technical School machine shop where the training takes place.

For more information see or or contact: Michael Baines, (413) 774-4361 x375 or Alyce Stiles, (413) 775-1607.

By Mary McClintock, ’82

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