Cuyahoga Community College’s Manufacturing Center of Excellence works to fill the skills gap

Tri-C manufacturing center of excellence

In June, I met with Alicia Booker, vice president of manufacturing, and Alethea Ganaway, program manager additive manufacturing & Ideation Station, of Cuyahoga Community College’s Workforce, Community and Economic Development division at the Metro Campus. Booker says, “We take a manufacturing systems approach and not a product approach. We don’t just focus occupationally on the need to fill a gap then three months later the need arises again due to churn.”

For this team, it’s all about workforce development and creating a skilled workforce. More than 3,500 students are attending the workforce programs, including youth, adults interested in a career transitions, students who already have a degree but are returning to upgrade skills, older adults interested in a second career, employees who need additional training for their current role, and job seekers interested in starting a career.

Booker moved to Ohio two years ago from Pennsylvania to accept the position. Ganaway was moved from Tri-C’s robotics program to additive manufacturing in order to write the grant to fund the program. Now, two years later, the fruits of their labor are paying off in the Manufacturing Center of Excellence (MCoE).

Booker says, “We offer a unique brand of training – short-term through two-year degree plus transfer opportunities. Classes are offered in environments that meet the needs of the students and customers — day, evening, weekend, and bootcamp formats, full- and part-time training, and now we can offer onsite training through the Citizens Bank Mobile Training Unit. Our programs are comprehensive, offering exploration and career exposure to students as young as eight years old through our Nuts & Bolts Academy, middle and high school visits (via the mobile unit), and our college credit plus K-12 initiative.”

This is what the impressively outfitted MCoE contains:Tri-C manufacturing center of excellence scanner

  1. A shop that houses CNC equipment
  2. An integrated systems line with Fanuc robots that launched in June 2017 (Students can become a certified production technician in eight weeks, including program automation, PLCs, and visual inspection for quality control.)
  3. A 3D printing lab that houses a Faro scanner and two printers that can print biomedical-grade devices
  4. A PLC training line with both Allen-Bradley and Siemens systems that launched In August 2017 (Students can earn an international certification for Siemens Mechatronics Systems, mainly used by European companies, since there are more than 400 German companies in northeast Ohio, while Allen-Bradley is more common in The United States. Some companies, such as Ford, use both systems in different portions of the plant. The training line includes a PLC station with hydraulic and pneumatic boards and a robotic arm.)
  5. A rover for virtual-reality training and integrated gaming
  6. A Fab Lab, a maker space for community and international collaboration (it houses a classroom; a Techno CNC router; an embroidery machine; a small mill for engraving, heat presses for T-shirts, hats and mugs; a laser engraver; and a vinyl cutter.)
  7. A mobile unit that can go to businesses, events and schools for teaching and demonstration opportunities in a nine-county area that launched in February 2017 (The trailer fits 10 students and instructors; is WiFi, laptop and software equipped; has its own generator; has plugs for different amperages; and can be deployed with electrical, welding, CNC, mechanics and 3D printing equipment. The lab already has been deployed to the 2017 IndustryWeek Manufacturing & Technology Conference & Expo, a workforce summit, Crestwood Local Schools, and Boys & Girls Club of Cleveland.)

According to Ganaway, “The Additive Manufacturing program includes not only 3D printing, but we teach students how to reverse engineer parts, 2D and 3D design, 3D scanning, inspection and other technologies related to additive manufacturing.  Additive manufacturing is not just related to manufacturing; it includes other disciplines, as well, such as medical.  Some of the projects include 3D printing prosthetics for veterans at the VA who are disabled.”

The college offers training by which students can earn college credits and industry certifications. In the welding training, they learn MIG, TIG, and stick welding. Right Skills Now affords students with CNC training in manual and automated machining. They train on Haas CNC mills and lathes, and on Bridgeport manual machines. The 3D/additive manufacturing training is in digital design, and students receive training in multiple 3D printing technologies, including the use of 3D printers, scanners, and other equipment available through the Ideation Station where they can work with a techno router, laser engraver, etc. In Mechatronics, students learn techniques in mechanical, electrical, computerization, and gain an understanding of how these systems work together. Finally, as a certified production technician, students are prepared to begin career opportunities in manufacturing and earn four industry certifications in areas of safety, manufacturing processes and production. This is a hybrid training program that includes training on the integrated systems training equipment to prepare them for occupations in material handling, assembly and production.

To stay connected to industry, the program has several advisory committees made up of industry professionals from the welding, machining, electrical, mechanical, 3D printing and transportation sectors. They also have specific employer-based programs, including First Energy, Swagelok and ArcelorMittal, who have advised the college on customized programs that lead to employment with their companies. Local businesses, such as Cleveland Job Corps, Cleveland Municipal School District, Towards Employment, Boys & Girls Club, Ohio Means Jobs, Ford, General Motors, Northeast Ohio Regional Sewer District, Cuyahoga Metropolitan Housing Authority, NASA, Arconic, Charter Steel, and others, utilize the program’s services.

The program, says Booker, helps to meet the growing demand for a skilled workforce by “working to strengthen the region by supporting the existing efforts of our partners and by addressing the needs we hear from employers for a skilled workforce. We provide a quick response for new skills by developing new programs and training modalities. We also are working with schools and youth-serving organizations to enhance the talent pipeline that industry needs.” She continues by sharing that the most common challenge that she sees manufacturing facing is “the alignment of skills — commonly referred to as the skills gap. The impact of technology on the industry is also a challenge as industry works to keep up with the growth of technology, and we (as a training institution) work to keep up with the projected needs for skilled workers.”

Tri-C manufacturing center of excellence mechatronics

A-Tech Machinists soar to new heights at National Robotics League competition

National Robotics League competition

(Courtesy of Guest Blogger Jamie Joy, daughter of Ron Maurer, A-Tech Machinist’s coach and advisor)

I well remember the day. “Fighting robots?” I guess I had envisioned a tower of blocks with arms and legs throwing punches; I was skeptical at best. However, my dad had a completely different vision in mind. He’d just come home after visiting a National Robotics League competition. He imagined leading a group of young men and women, the next generation to enter the machining industry in which he’d spent his career, to construct from scratch a robotically engineered machine to face competitors with a high-speed, hardened tool-steel weapon. Though I wanted to be supportive, I can’t say I fully understood. That is until that first day of competition. It didn’t take long for myself, as well as the rest of our family, to realize the vision in which my father had spent countless hours striving. Even my two-year-old, at the time, came home battling his graham cracker halves against each other. We’d all caught the fever. Yet, behind the sound of grinding steel and robots sent flying through the air in three minute rounds, has always been the educational component.

Most schools are not fortunate enough to use classroom time to brainstorm, build and perfect their robots. However, A-Tech students, who are training to go into the machining industry after graduation, get the full spectrum of education from conception to final build, from battle to battle. They learn to meld ideas, strategies and concepts to create a robot that will withstand their competitors’ attacks. Throughout the school-year-long process, the students are hands on, machining raw material into each specific component of the robot’s assembly — weapon, axles, wheels, frame rails, base plates, etc. In addition to the parts it takes to assemble one robot, they compile enough for three complete machines, in the event that damage caused to the robot will call for a replacement component the day of the battle. Then the robot is assembled and analyzed on weapon speed, belt tightness, weight limits, drive control, etc. with adjustments made as needed. Finally, through a timed obstacle course, the drivers are selected, final tweaks made and the robot declared battle ready. With the investment of their time comes each student’s goal: Defeat the opposition, which makes success sweeter when it comes.

This year, A-Tech did just that, coming out on top for a second consecutive year at Lakeland Community College in the AWT RoboBots competition where they took home the first-place trophy from 25 opposing teams. This time, however, with the bragging rights of going undefeated throughout the day. At the National Robotics League competition in California, Pa., through a double-elimination bracket, the A-Tech Machinists tied for 13th place out of 64 teams. It was another great year of competition for not only the fans not only in the stands, but also those watching the live broadcast from home. 

Though, if you asked my dad, his greatest achievement wasn’t another trophy. It was the opportunity to instill in the next generation lessons in both the machining industry and in life, through a hunk of metal. In fact, 10 financial sponsors have backed that mission to be a part of the change in Ashtabula County: to teach through experience and personal investment the value of hard work. The hum of the weapon, sparks flying on contact, curling metal, bots rendered useless then reconstructed are just the surface. Behind all of it, is a draw for students to realize the necessity of the machining industry as they gain the skills to succeed within it. This year I brought home two excited kiddos who took foam building blocks, constructed their own “robots” with unique names and battled them against each other in makeshift rounds. I may be a little biased, but I’m so thankful that my dad had the foresight to see this thing through and the momentum from year to year to keep pushing his students to greater heights. It isn’t just the students who are all the better for it.

 

Euclid High School’s Robotics Team made us proud at the 2017 AWT RoboBots Competition!

Euclid High School Robotics Team RoboBot battle bot

Congratulations to Euclid High Schools’s Robotics Team “The Untouchables” and their battle bot “Eliot Ness” for making it to the fourth round of the 2017 AWT RoboBots Competition on Apr. 29 at Lakeland Community College. We are very proud of you and grateful for the opportunity to sponsor an amazing group of students. You all are winners to us! HGR’s employees showed up the day before the competition at work in their team shirts to show our support.

RoboBot 2017 T-shirt

HGR Industrial Surplus to give $500 scholarship to winning AWT RoboBots team on Apr. 29

Come on out to Lakeland Community College and join us to cheer on the high-school and middle-school teams as they compete to be the last battle bot standing. The battles begin at 8:30 a.m. The winning high school will be presented with a $500 scholarship check from HGR Industrial Surplus at the end of the event.

AWT RoboBots 2017 flyer