Manufacturing a New Career

September 25, 2015

When Paul Norwood, 54, of Colrain first heard about Manufacturing courses offered at GCC, he thought they were probably way over his head. But Paul had worked for twenty years at Lightlife Foods, was ready to find a new career, and he decided to go to an information session to learn about GCC’s course offerings. Soon, he was enrolled in a free non-credit GCC course in Foundational Manufacturing, studying for his HiSET (formerly known as GED) through the Literacy Project, and learning how to write a resume and prepare for interviews through a course at the Franklin-Hampshire Career Center.

Paul said, “Everyone has been fantastic. With GCC, the Literacy Project, and the Career Center, I felt like I had a whole team of people going to bat for me. I’ve met nice people, made good friends, and really enjoyed what I was learning. When it was time to look for a job, the folks at the Career Center talked to employers about me.”

Paul did more than look for a job, he got one. In July, Paul started work at Bete Fog Nozzle, doing manual machining. When he first stepped onto the production floor at Bete Fog Nozzle, Paul was ready to go. Each day, as he works with blueprints, lathes, milling machines, and calipers, Paul uses knowledge and skills he learned in his GCC course. Starting in October, Paul will take a fifteen-week Advanced Manufacturing Pipeline to CNC Operations (AMP-CNC) course, learning to operate computer-controlled machining, milling, and turning machines used by Bete Fog Nozzle and other precision manufacturing companies in the area. The Foundational Manufacturing course and AMP-CNC course are funded by Guided Pathways to Success in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math), a three year $20 million grant U.S. Department of Labor that GCC is sharing with 14 other Massachusetts community colleges to develop academic pathways that provide credit and non-credit credentials.  New Engineering Technology classes are in development towards a new certificate and degree.  The first class available is Robotics Control starts October 22.

Why manufacturing? Despite perceptions that local manufacturing is something of the past and all manufacturing jobs have moved overseas, manufacturing is alive and well in Massachusetts. Over 18 percent of the jobs in Franklin County are in manufacturing, and, with many local manufacturing workers nearing retirement, area businesses are looking for qualified workers.

Doug Dziadzio, Vice President of Manufacturing at Bete Fog Nozzle, said, “Manufacturing today combines the best in leading edge computing power mated to machine tools and processes that were unheard of a generation ago. The people in today’s sophisticated manufacturing facilities bring creativity and problem solving skills to a real world manifestation of the best in computer virtual reality. Manufacturing provides sustainable careers that engage our workers’ minds and contribute in meaningful ways to the quality of life for themselves, their families, the community, and the world. The training offered by the AMP-CNC program has been instrumental in opening up pathways for bright, engaged people that are crucial to the ongoing success of Bete Fog Nozzle and the revival of manufacturing in the United States.”

“Paul’s journey from that first information session to his job and continuing courses is a great example of what I do with students every day,” said April Estis-Clark, a College & Career Navigator based at GCC and the Career Center. “I work with students to understand their current skills and goals and then help them explore educational and career opportunities to meet their goals.

Celebrate Manufacturing Day will be a great way to learn about manufacturers in our area and the many free educational opportunities available.”

This Manufacturing Day Celebration will be held on October 1, 5-7 pm at GCC in the Core lobby as part of National Manufacturing month activities and statewide manufacturing activities supported by the Commonwealth’s Advanced Manufacturing Futures Program administered by MassDevelopment.  Free and open to the public, there will be hands-on activities, local manufacturers showing products made here in the community as well as food, prizes, and fun. It will be followed at 7 p.m. by a free Pioneer Valley Institute presentation about our local industrial DNA by Jim Terapane, Journeyman machinist and President of the Museum of Industrial Heritage in GCC’s Sloan Theater.

Curious about manufacturing a new career for yourself like Paul did? Like Paul, you can take the first step on that path by attending an Information & Application Session on October 19 to learn more and apply. Visit www.gcc.mass.edu/manufacturing or contact April Estis-Clark, etisclarka@gcc.mass.edu or (413) 775-1602 for more information.

By Mary McClintock, ’82