Manufacturing as a Career: Virginia Students Just DoIT

Manufacturing is on the upswing, especially in states like Virginia. There, a well-known manufacturer has joined forces with a local technical college to train the next generation of assemblers.

“Our focus is placing students on a pathway to a manufacturing career,” says Melinda Miller, coordinator of the manufacturing, trades and technical programs at John Tyler Community College (JTCC) in Chester, VA. “Our programs hinge on what the local manufacturers need to fulfill their workforce.”

One local manufacturer is Rolls-Royce, the global power systems company with a manufacturing facility in Reston, VA. JTCC has had a partnership with Rolls-Royce since fall 2010.

Rolls-Royce representatives participate on JTCC advisory councils and boards to provide industry guidance on coursework and help build a sustainable program that’s relevant across multiple industries. Rolls-Royce also provides the school with machine tools similar in size and complexity to those found on today’s factory floor. Finally, the company offers apprenticeships to qualified students.

JTCC’s manufacturing program is part of the school’s Department of Industrial Technology (DoIT), which sponsors 13 career studies certificates, three certificate programs and three associates in applied science (AAS) degrees. DoIT programs offer instruction in mechanical engineering (including mechatronics and robotics), precision machining, welding and many other technologies.

Coursework for mechanical engineering, precision machining and welding students blends theory with practical application to reinforce academics and real-world industrial skills. Classroom work emphasizes applied mathematics and physics.

The JTCC precision machining program has earned nationally recognized accreditation through the National Institute for Metalworking Skills. It is the only post-secondary program in Virginia to hold this accreditation.

Students acquire a diverse skill set that enables them to perform both manual and computer numerical control (CNC) machining on mills and lathes. They can also program and setup CNC machines and perform CNC probe measuring.

“The students machine small parts during their training, although the parts are not the exact ones Rolls-Royce uses,” says Les Bell, department chair—industrial technology at JTCC. “The machining is a starting point and that is what counts.”

Students that earn a degree or certificate in precision machining technology are qualified for jobs in advanced manufacturing across many industries. These include aerospace and defense, automotive die and mold, consumer products, medical, power generation and renewable energy.

The 2010-11 academic year was the first year of the partnership between JTCC and Rolls-Royce. It resulted in five JTCC graduates becoming full-time workers at Rolls-Royce, says Miller.

“Training the next generation of highly skilled workers is critical to the future of Rolls-Royce and to the success of advanced manufacturing in America,” says Thomas O. Loehr, executive vice president at the Rolls-Royce Crosspointe Campus.

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Manufacturers, how are you training your workforce?

Are you working with a local technical school or college? Or have you developed other means to recruit and train current and future assemblers?

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