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Training a Workforce with Multi-disciplinary Skills in Manufacturing

CNC student Catie L 

Across that state of Minnesota, employers in the manufacturing sector are encountering a new challenge — hiring qualified candidates. Employers vary in their requirements for positions, especially across industries, but there is a common trend emerging across them all. Employers are seeking candidates with more STEM-like, multi-disciplinary skills and training.

This is something Anoka Technical College has recognized since the early development of its Machine Trades program and other programs related to manufacturing.

“With the input of industry partners and individuals on the programs’ steering committee we have always worked to create a program that gives students the experience and exposure to a multitude of skills within manufacturing,” said Matt Rogers, Anoka Tech Machine Trades instructor.

rms Company, in Coon Rapids, Minn., is a long-time partner to Anoka Tech. Training Specialist Archie Erickson is part of the college’s Machine Trades program steering committee and sees the direct benefits of the partnership and Anoka Tech’s approach to education.

 “The program teaches them more fundamental, in-between skills they may not receive working in the field,” said Erickson.

In the CNC Machining program, students begin with the basics. “It starts with the manual material, math and numbers,” shared current Machine Trades student, Catie Lonergan. “I will begin CNC work in the fall.”

Catie is a full-time student at Anoka Tech and a machine operations intern at rms, where she works manufacturing bone screws in the Orthopedic Department. “My instructors at Anoka Tech are strict, even more than my employer, about the things you’re producing,” said Catie. “Anoka Tech over-prepares you.”

Expanding High-Quality Training

The program’s faculty and steering committee continues to expand degree, diploma and certificate options within the manufacturing area to give students as much exposure as possible to the career paths available and address fields that are under-represented in higher education.

Enrolling for the fall 2020 semester is a new CNC Service Technician program and Quality Inspector program. Jobs in both fields are readily available with local manufacturing partners.

“Quality programs are needed across the field,” said Erickson. “Most of the quality inspectors I have worked with in the past are raised in the field.  They then run into brick walls later in their career advancement due to not having a degree of some sort to advance to a technician or engineer level.” 

“The service tech program is another great training.  We struggle to fill those types of positions here at rms,” said Erickson, “mostly due to lack of experience or knowledge.”

Starts with Numbers, Ends with a Job-Ready Candidate

As Catie noted, “it starts with numbers.” After laying the foundation, students are met with high expectations and hands-on experience.

Anoka Tech has the goal of continuing to, not just respond to workforce needs but, recognize that technical education has a role in partnering with the industry to proactively train job-ready candidates in all manufacturing-related job categories.

Catie’s advice for success: “It’s all about your mindset. You have to work with the program and be challenged at little bit.”

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