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HUNTSVILLE, Al. – On Monday, May 5th, J.F. Drake State Community and Technical College (Drake State) announced the establishment of the North Alabama Manufacturing Technology Education Collaborative (NAMTEC) with industry partner, Science and Engineering Services, LLC (SES). The joint initiative was created to serve the expanding manufacturing needs of north Alabama, and capitalize on the education and training capacity of the College. Working in concert with its manufacturing industry partners, Drake State will produce multi-skilled manufacturing technicians for employment in north Alabama industries.
Technicians having advanced manufacturing technology skill sets are in high demand, particularly for those industries located within the Huntsville/Madison County area such as SES. Russell Chunn, SES Chief Financial Officer and Executive Vice Chairman, explained why he supported the union. “We chose to develop this partnership with Drake State because we have confidence in the College’s ability to instill the kinds of qualities and skill sets we are seeking in our workforce.”
Mr. Chunn added that in the next 5 years, his company will be hiring 500 to 600 new employees. The new hires will create even more employment opportunities for the industry at large. “For every new employee SES adds, SES suppliers will add two, which equates to a potential for 1,800 new jobs over the next five years resulting from this partnership. That doesn’t even include the number of new jobs that will be generated by the other industries seeking to join this alliance,” said Mr. Chunn.
“We are delighted to have Science and Engineering Services, LLC as our partner in forming this breakthrough program that will benefit so many of our students. We see advanced manufacturing as a cornerstone for economic development in north Alabama, especially in Huntsville where so many of our students reside,” noted Dr. Helen T. McAlpine, Drake State President.
Dr. McAlpine explained that the partnership was sparked by the efforts of our State Board of Education member, Mary Scott Hunter. “We appreciate her confidence in the College to deliver the quality of education and training sought by local businesses and industries,” added Dr. McAlpine who also indicated that “several other industries have expressed a desire to join the alliance to take advantage of the flexible curriculum, the resulting industry-recognized certifications, and the apprenticeship pathway for developing trained workers for local industries.”
The NAMTEC program features mechatronics, precision machining, robotics, industrial maintenance, plastic and composite materials, additive manufacturing, quality and lean principles, and other key manufacturing processes. Drake State and SES’ partnership highlights the Alabama Community College System’s second mechatronics apprenticeship program. The curriculum and training strategies are patterned after the successful program implemented by Shelton State Community College to support the workforce needs of the Mercedes plant in Vance, Alabama. Students in the program will be eligible for paid apprenticeship jobs for 16 hours per week while attending classes. Drake State’s program is certified by the National Institute for Metalworking Skills (NIMS) ensuring that Drake State’s graduates have industry-recognized credentials.
“This Earn and Learn program and partnership between Drake State Community and Technical College and SES is so exactly on target,” noted State Board Member Mary Scott Hunter, who represents District 8. “Students in this program will have an edge and an entry point into advanced manufacturing jobs that are here already with more coming in the immediate future. These are good, high paying jobs that require education, training and advanced skills,” she added.
According to Dr. John Reutter, Director of Planning and Resource Development, 55 percent of the American manufacturing industries that went offshore over the past few decades have already returned in recent years. “These industries are buying new properties, putting up new manufacturing plants, and implementing new manufacturing technologies. The manufacturers are looking for young workers, trained in the latest technologies, and possessing the soft skills that make them highly productive workers,” Dr. Reutter explained. He added that the new technologies and importance of soft skills are integrated into Drake State’s Associate Degree in Manufacturing Technology. In addition, advanced certificates in a variety of manufacturing operations are also available through the program.
The NAMTEC program includes a manufacturing technology academy and dual enrollment courses for high school students, and also provides transitional support for veterans seeking entry into the manufacturing industry. “We are emphasizing the benefit of this opportunity for veterans. This past week, the College presented the opportunity to over 100 members of the Army National Guard. A great deal of interest was expressed by the National Guard members who were present,” noted Dr. Nicole Barnett, Dean of Student Support Services. A pipeline of veterans entering the program has already been established with initial classes beginning May 22.
Answering the need to accelerate entry of new workers into the manufacturing workforce, Drake State is also offering its program to high school graduates, unemployed and underemployed workers, veterans, and incumbent workers seeking training in advanced manufacturing technologies.
“It’s a good match! A match that makes sense for workforce and economic development,” said Mrs. Hunter. “Students are going to have such a great opportunity! And that’s what it’s all about!”