Cultivating Metalworking Technology's Next Users

An educator from a successful vocational high school describes what manufacturers can do to help institutions like his provide capable talent to industry.

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Metalworking technology is useless without people who are knowledgeable enough to put that technology to work. One person who knows this is Clem Fucci. He chairs the manufacturing technology program at the Westfield Vocational Technical High School in Westfield, Massachusetts. In Massachusetts, public school students have the option of attending “voc-tech” high schools that provide instruction in various trades. Mr. Fucci’s high school is a particularly effective one, achieving 100-percent placement of graduates over the past 10 years in fields including tool and die, precision machining, CNC machining, CNC service, CNC applications engineering and manufacturing engineering.

What can companies do to support institutions like his, in the hope of cultivating future employees?

Mr. Fucci recently offered some thoughts:

1. Advise and invest.

He says, “We have an advisory committee made up of people from local manufacturing businesses. The committee is our connection to what area manufacturers need.” Companies should communicate with the members of committees such as this, he says.

His school also relies on direct support from local businesses for help with purchasing equipment. He stresses the value and importance of this, saying, “We cannot try to educate our students for the 21st century using 19th-century technology.”

2. Open up.

“Education is key not only for students but also for local governments,” he says. “Our advisory committee has conducted plant tours for our school committees, city councilors and mayors to educate them on how important manufacturing companies are in our city. For example, 30 percent of all employment here comes from manufacturing companies. One fact that was brought out by one recent encounter between government and business was this: For every commercial aircraft that flies in the free world, $150,000 of it is manufactured here in Westfield. That caught the attention of our local political leaders. During the last 5 years, our mayor has bonded monies for the purchase of CNC equipment and a computer design lab.”

3. Look for win-win.

Could your business work with a local vocational institution in a way that would benefit you both? Mr. Fucci says some companies supplying metalworking technology have found a way. “We are a training center for CGTech’s Vericut software and Delcam’s Featurecam software. This means that we host training sessions for manufacturing businesses that buy the software. In turn, we get the latest software at a reduced price for our students.”

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