A recent survey of manufacturers in the Great Lakes Bay Region shows they are having trouble finding qualified machinists.
That news came as a surprise to Kathy Conklin, executive director of the Great Lakes Bay Manufacturers’ Association, who compiled the survey in 2012. The 27 companies that responded said all were seeking qualified skilled workers and that they’d need 639 operators and 443 machinists within five years.
“We know there is a great demand,” Conklin said.
Delta College hopes to meet that demand with its accelerated computer numerical control, or CNC, machinist program. The next session begins in May, and spaces for students are filling up, said Harvey Schneider, Delta’s Skilled Trades liaison specialist.
Schneider said manufacturers often are looking for entry level workers with a few years experience, yet those people typically have jobs. The Delta program helps others learn a skill set to find employment as well, he said.
Delta’s 11-week program immerses students in the world of a CNC machinist, with four 8-hour days in the classroom and one day spent job shadowing at an area manufacturer each week.
The accelerated program, Schneider said, is different than Delta’s Fast Start programs, which are designed with a specific employer in mind.
Students receive college credit and a certificate of completion for the accelerated CNC program, and can go on to earn an advanced CNC certificate or skilled trades associate degree.
Operators and machinists work locally for companies like Emcor, Bay Cast and Fullerton Tool, that produce pieces for larger machines or devices in industries ranging from aerospace to medical.
Interested students can attend an informational session from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. on Tuesday, April 16, in room N012 at Delta College, 1961 Delta Road in Bay County’s Frankenlust Township. Delta is set to run four sections of the program, including one that will run from 4 p.m. to midnight, Schneider said. The cost for the program and books starts at $2,500. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, computer-controlled machine tool operators earn a median wage of $35,580 annually, and as much as $52,850 a year.
Of the 22 students who completed the first session last year, 10 got jobs and seven returned to Delta the next fall for classes, said program coordinator Terry Morse.
Morse said manufacturers where students are shadowing are even offering students jobs before they complete the program. “Companies from Oscoda to Genesee County are starting to call us,” Morse said.
Morse and Schneider explained students are learning the skills employers are demanding, and are being taught by instructors working in the field.
“It’s pretty exciting,” said Conklin from the Manufacturers’ Association. “We are starting to build a pipeline that really works.”