DEVENS -- Mount Wachusett Community College opened its new Manufacturing Workforce Certification Center at the Devens Campus Oct. 4 in conjunction with National Manufacturing Day.

Mass Development, Amp It Up and Nashoba Valley Chamber of Commerce partnered with Mount Wachusett Community College on the day's activities.

Members of the Devens and MWCC community, business leaders and politicians gathered with the Nashoba Valley Chamber of Commerce for the ribbon-cutting at the new center.

"We have been moving towards this day for a very long time," MWCC president Dr. Daniel M. Asquino said. "We offer an accelerated training program in manufacturing that includes technical, academic and soft skills components."

In response to a $20 million Trade Adjustment Assistance Community College and Career Training grant from the United States Department of Labor and the need for a skilled and reliable manufacturing workforce, the center hosts a six-week course for students to gain preparation and training in the manufacturing field.

"We have been heavily involved with manufacturing training for years," Vice President of Lifelong Learning and Workforce Development Jackie Belrose said.

MWCC received the grant in 2011 when the state identified 15 community colleges in Massachusetts for the award. Belrose and other members of the school administration knew that advanced manufacturing training was an area MWCC was interested and invested in.


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In 2012, she and Dr. John Henshaw visited Tennessee to explore a curriculum delivery model that was addressing the needs of local manufacturers and successfully developing a skilled workforce.

"We found a program at Southwest Tennessee Community College that was a six-week accelerated manufacturing program and we just loved it," Belrose said.

The program consisted of training in mechanical aptitude, basic math literacy, information location and workplace readiness.

"SWCC integrated the program and they were very successful in working with their local career centers and bringing people that were either unemployed or underemployed through the program and then directly into jobs," Belrose said. "They worked very closely with the area manufacturers and allowed employers to sit in on classes and meet the students. We loved the model, we brought it back and replicated it here."

The program offers credit and noncredit training that meets specific needs of employers.

"The reason we developed this program was to provide quick credentialing for unemployed and underemployed people throughout the region. It's changing the way you look at meeting your educational goals as you continue to work towards building your career and employment opportunities," director of the Devens Campus Julie Crowley said. "Students are able to attend noncredit training programs that provide the credentials and content necessary to find employment in the short-term. Students are then encouraged to continue their education towards a credit bearing certificate or degree as they work, allowing them to increase their future career and earning potential."

Training includes skills in workplace success, computers, business communication, basic mechanical systems, physical and mechanical assessments, Occupational Safety and Health Administration safety training, intro to blueprint reading, using measurement tools and quality assurance, electrical measurements and troubleshooting and lean manufacturing and supply chain management.

"We would like to have a workforce that is technically proficient, but also, we want to have a workforce that understands critical thinking skills, that comes to work on time, and that knows about teaming skills and union relations," Asquino said. "All of those things are skill sets that are taught here."

There is no fee for the program if you meet certain eligibility requirements. Candidates for the program must be unemployed or underemployed and in need of entry level skills in the manufacturing field, have a high school diploma or GED as the highest level of education, authorization to work in the United States, a passing score on the Test of Adult Basic Education test and adequate supports to sustain themselves financially for the duration of training. 

The 180-hour program runs from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., Monday through Thursday, for six weeks.

"Students must treat this program as they would a full-time job," Crowley said.

The first class of students in the program graduated in August and were all able to find employment upon completion. The next round of the training program will begin Oct. 28.

Information sessions to learn about the program are held at the Devens campus at 27 Jackson Road. Those interested should call 978-630-9569 for information.

Follow Julia Kacmarek on Twitter and Tout @JuliaEKacmarek.