Dylan Phelps, a sales associate with Haas, said he has been reaching out to school's within his district — Western Mass and the state of Vermont — to let them know about Haas machines and scholarship opportunities.
"Schools like McCann or Taconic, any kind of school that has a manufacturing program, can apply," he said. "And they can apply as many times as they want ... and students themselves can apply as well. It's not just for the schools."
Haas Automation builds computer-controlled machining and milling equipment — CNC, or computer numerical control — for a wide variety of materials. McCann has several of the machines for different levels of competency and Phelps said they are used both for training and in the workplace. The control boards are the same across models as well to ensure skill sets are transferable across machines and between work and school.
The foundation was created by owner Gene Haas in 1999 to initially provide support to his own community and has since grown to provide resources for manufacturing and machining programs and students around the country. More than $50 million in grants have been donated to more than 4,000 organizations and schools to date.
The money can be spent on programs, teacher training, scholarships and student support.
"It's a great program and we certainly will be applying again," said Kratz, "to give our students the best foot forward we can."
Matuszak said a number of his students are heading into postgraduate programs and this donation will be a "huge step" in offering them some support. For others heading into the workforce, there may an opportunity to provide them with toolboxes or other resources they may need.
But McCann's also thinking about other needs in the community, such as displaced workers who may require updated training. Matuszak pointed to the recent closure of Marland Mold in Pittsfield as an example.
"They're looking at trying to find some workforce development for the people that are already in manufacturing careers and the things that they're finding out from local businesses ... they're very talented people but some of them might be lacking master CAM experience, like computer-aided machining, and maybe we could put together a program for adults in manufacturing," he said.
Prinicipal Justin Kratz said a retraining or certification program might be an option.
"If you've been in the field for 20-25 years and for whatever reason your employer goes out, you're in a position where you're not up to date with the latest and the newest," he said.
The priority, however, is creating a younger, skilled workforce ready to step into the more complex demands of modern manufacturing.
Phelps, who graduated from a New Hampshire community college in machine tool and manufacturing, said he'd been "the kid" in the places he'd worked while in school.
"The age gap between me and the next youngest was ridiculous ... the next youngest was 40-45 years old," he said. "We need students to be going into this trade because the 45-year-old is going to eventually retire."
Phelp's doing his best to connect with schools within his sales area and Matuszak said it's been good to have a young face working with the school system and speaking with the students. Both pointed to opportunities in skilled manufacturing with wages well above minimum.
The Manufacturing Institute's most recent Skills Gap Report in 2015 estimates that more than 2 million manufacturing jobs will go unfilled in the next decade; about 15,000 to 16,000 of those are in New England. The report says it's a combination of a dearth of skilled labor and an aging workforce.
Phelps said he'd been able to pay for his own degree by working while in school, one advantage of a manufacturing job. And Matuszak said several his students have jobs already lined up and employers are willing to help them continue their educations.
"It's going to take them time to get their associate's degrees, bachelor's degrees," he said. "Not only are they working generating money, these local companies are helping them out by reimbursing them for their college classes."
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