When people think of manufacturing in Michigan they often think of un-employment and the auto industry. While the auto industry is rebounding and most of us have the benefit of owning a car or two, most people do not give thought that everything they use in their everyday life is made or manufactured somehow and somewhere. Most of the time these manufacturing operations are behind the scenes, or not very well known. Manufacturing is growing by leaps and bounds, but there is a large skills gap for many employers both locally, and nationwide. Employers are desperate for highly skilled and motivated people in hi-tech manufacturing careers. Employers cannot find enough skilled people to fill their needs.Much has changed in 20 years and the Allegan Tech Center’s Machining & CNC Tech program is trying to stay ahead of the curve to train quality students with the skills that match the needs of the local employers. The upgrades in the lab include a new high tech classroom that is equipped with laptops for all students. Students learn at their own pace by using a hybrid online training course with 400+ lessons to train students at every skill level. The lab has also been re-configured so that more students have access to cutting edge technology, software and equipment. The employee skill sets employers were looking for 20 years ago or even 10 years ago has changed dramatically. Employers are looking for individuals who have a basic, solid machining foundation, as well as the ability to learn and adapt to different software and computerized CNC equipment used in industry.
The Tech Center’s Machining program has a high student work placement and success rate as they continue on to manufacturing careers. Brett Hilaski (Hopkins) was one student that took advantage of his skills and abilities by finding a career at Trans-matic in Holland which specializes in producing world class, deep drawn metal stampings. They produce items that we use in everyday life like door lock components, appliance parts, and many automotive applications such as air bag components and fuel delivery parts. Brett started in June, and is working toward a Manufacturing Engineering degree that Trans-matic is providing with a fully funded tuition reimbursement program. Another former student, Ben Bregg(also of Hopkins), currently works at MetalFlow Corp. in Holland. MetalFlow also specializes in deep drawn metal stamping. Currently Ben works on summer and holiday breaks, along with being a full time mechanical engineering student at WMU in the program. Metalflow is paying for his college credits.
Francisco Lemus and Collin Vandermoore (both from Hopkins) were able to land careers at Digitrace Ltd. in Wayland that specializes in large CNC machining of components from all over the United States. Digitrace also offers tuition reimbursement programs for their employees. Digitrace uses many tech center students yearly to fill their workforce with both current and graduated students. There are many more companies that offer steady employment, benefits, and other perks, waiting to fill their workforce with eager talented individuals and the Allegan Tech Center is playing a valuable role in this process both now and in the future. AAESA and the Allegan Tech Center continue to work for student’s futures.