A metal palm tree frames the entrance of the two-year-old Advanced Manufacturing Center, an educational and training facility run by Community College of Denver (CCD). The student-made tree greets attendees of the school’s third bi-annual mixer.
Inside the 33,000-square-foot building, students await their guests: representatives from 18 Colorado businesses who’ve come to recruit students. Resumes in hand, the students are ready to show off how they are learning the highly technical, hands-on skills of manufacturing. Employers conduct informal interviews with the students, many who are hoping to line up at least one job prospect by the end of the night; at CCD’s mixer, seven students were hired.
The mixer is part of a state- and nation-wide effort to educate and train more people to fill the shortage of welding and machining jobs. With many skilled laborers retiring, there haven’t been enough new workers to meet the demand for these jobs. The State placed Janet Colvin, Manufacturing Programs Navigator, at CCD’s Advanced Manufacturing Center to help fill the workforce pipeline with these jobs.
“You just hear the buzz in the room,” Colvin says of the spring 2018 mixer. “The employers are saying, ‘We need more talent. We’re not worried about capital; we’re worried about human capital.’”
Colvin explains one reason for this workforce drought: people think welding and machining jobs are dirty and dingy. They conjure images of hot and grimy factories, toiling away under extremely uncomfortable conditions.
“This isn’t your grandparent’s welding job,” Colvin says. “Facilities are usually well lit and the machinery is very clean. Many facilities are climate-controlled.”
Indeed, the Advanced Manufacturing Center is a testament to this modern manufacturing, with its clutter-free spaces and noticeably quiet machines.
It pays to reconsider misconceptions about manufacturing, Colvin explains. A CCD student who completes a certificate or associate degree in manufacturing is likely to have a job out of school, with typical pay starting at $16 to $20 an hour.
Even better, many employers will offer new recruits overtime as soon as they start, explains Colvin because there currently aren’t enough people to fill the jobs.
CCD offers two manufacturing tracks: machining and welding. Students complete either two-year program at the Advanced Manufacturing Center, where they get real-world experience on sophisticated, industry-grade machines. Both degree paths are stackable, meaning students can earn certificates on their way to earning an associate degree. CCD also prepares students for, and administers, the American Welding Society certification, an industry-recognized certification.
Due to the program’s popularity, CCD is expanding class schedules with options in the morning, afternoon and evening, throughout the year.
“Our programs are designed for people with no experience,” Colvin says. “We welcome those who have that internal motivation to come and check it out and take a look. I think they will be surprised.”
Colvin explains that the machining program is ideal for people who like applied mathematics — like geometry and trigonometry — and who like detailed formulas and coding.
“Students really enjoy the program because they can see the results of their success,” Colvin says.
Welding, on the other hand, usually attracts a younger population, as well as Veterans who may have welded on their tours of duty. This program is ideal for people who are “kinesthetic,” Colvin says. “They tend to be very hands-on; they want to jump in and do projects, but also have the patience for learning the techniques.”
CCD’s Advanced Manufacturing Center also offers continuing education for corporations. A company might send a current employee for two weeks to train with an instructor on the corporate side of the facility to improve or refresh skills and knowledge.
“The employers are thrilled because they come with some skill sets and they don’t have to do all the training,” Colvin says. “They find that our students having the knowledge and a broad number of processes is really valuable.”
If you are interested in a career in welding or machining, email Colvin at Janet.Colvin@ccd.edu to set up a tour of the Advanced Manufacturing Center, located in Denver’s Globeville neighborhood.
The fall 2018 mixer was Wednesday, November 7th, 4 - 6:00 p.m at CCD's Advanced Manufacturing Center | 2570 31st St. Denver, CO 80216.