Reigniting Interest in Manufacturing With a Full-Ride Scholarship Program

New program aims to “AMP” up the nation’s youth into entering moldmaking with the proper education and training—for free!.
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Paragon D&E (Grand Rapids, MI)—a builder of injection, compression and other specialty tools in industries like automotive, heavy truck, oil and gas, aerospace and defense, marine and nuclear—has joined several other mold manufacturers in launching the Advanced Manufacturing Partnership (AMP) under the Talent 2025 program (see Sidebar, page xx). AMP’s mission is to address the workforce talent gap existing in West Michigan by helping students earn an Associate’s Degree at Grand Rapids Community College (GRCC) or a or Bachelor’s Degree Ferris State University at no cost in return for a one-year, full-time work commitment.

According to Paragon D&E Sales Engineer Jon Hamming, Paragon’s President David Muir was “actively involved” in the development of this program with several other manufacturers, including Autocam (Kentwood), Tooling Systems Group (Grand Rapids) and Anderson Global (Muskegon Heights). Muir and several other CEOs approached GRCC and Ferris to set up this program that combines work and study experience.

Amy Koning, Interim Associate Dean of Operations, School of Workforce Development at Grand Rapids Community College (GRCC) and facilitator of the AMP program, notes that as West Michigan manufacturing companies gear up coming out of the recession, the required skilled labor force does not exist in the area to fill their production demand. “AMP aims to fulfill the short-term goal of staffing in these companies while investing in the long-term needs of the skill attainment to progress the work of the companies in the future. Students will be working for the companies while attending school and the partnering companies will be providing each student with a full ride scholarship to obtain their Associate’s or Bachelor’s Degree—depending on the career path the students choose.”

Last Spring, AMP sponsored an Open House at Paragon. Parents and students from area high schools were invited to attend and see firsthand today’s manufacturing environment, Hamming notes. “Paragon employees were invited to man various areas of the operation, such as engineering, programming, machining and assembly,” he comments. “Students and parents had the opportunity to talk to the employees and ask questions about careers in each area. Approximately 100 parents and students attended the four-hour event. Many were surprised by the opportunities, pay and bright, clean working environment Paragon has to offer.”

Fred Longcore, Sales and Operations at Anderson Global, also was pleased with the turnout at the Open House. “We had a lot of great conversations with potential candidates interested in the AMP program who didn’t realize what Advanced Manufacturing is all about,” he says.

Program Details
AMP, available at GRCC, offers the following programs in the Manufacturing department: Tooling & Manufacturing, Plastics, Quality Science and Welding. AMP’s aforementioned partners are offering a two-year scholarship in advanced manufacturing by earning an Associate’s Degree in Tooling and Manufacturing, or a Bachelor’s Degree in Manufacturing Engineering Technology at Ferris State University.

Paragon’s Hamming notes that the program is open to prospective seniors. “Eligible participants must have a minimum ACT in Math, Reading and English of 18, Level 4 Work Keys, an aptitude for calculations, creating by computer and problem-solving,” he explains. Then, they are allowed to apply with the companies for inclusion in the program. Interviews are conducted with each student and the final group of participants is selected.” AMP participants are allowed to earn while they learn by working part-time and attending college part-time—getting their hourly wage while not having to pay tuition with loans. After he or she earns a degree, the graduate would have to commit to one year of full-time employment. After that year is up, he or she is free to leave with no strings attached. “Obviously, we would make every effort to keep them on board,” Hamming notes, “as they would have had approximately six year’s seniority at that point in time.”

Koning of GRCC organizes the selection process, determines the set curriculum that the companies decided upon, and eventually will enroll the students for the fall 2012 semester. Currently 24 students have been selected through second-round interviews to intern at the four partnering companies during the summer,” Koning notes. “I will meet with them before the end of the summer to determine what students will be enrolled at GRCC to complete the Associate’s Degree in Tooling and Manufacturing—as the internship is still part of the selection process to receive this full-ride scholarship for an Associate’s Degree.”

Paragon’s goal is to have five participants in the program, and reports that the company is currently in the final stages of selecting the five participants. As Koning previously stated, the participant will work as summer interns before starting classes in the fall.

Anderson Global has two participants so far, and Longcore is excited about what the future may hold. “It’s a matter of getting the next generation excited about the industry!” he affirms. “There is a definite need in America for skilled people who get fulfillment out of making things, whether they are using software to design a complex mold or operating a five-axis machining center to manufacture intricate parts. Tangible rewards are out there for those interested in pursing a career in manufacturing, we simply need to re-ignite the interest.”

For More Information:
Paragon D&E / paragonde.com
Anderson Global / andersonglobal.com
Autocam / autocam.com
Tooling Systems Group / toolingsystemsgroup.com
Ferris State University / ferris.edu
Grand Rapids Community College / cms.grcc.edu/amp

Talent 2025
Formed in 2010, TALENT 2025 is a coalition of more than 60 CEOs from major employers in the West Michigan region who are focused on what is needed today to ensure that West Michigan can successfully meet the workforce needs in 2025. The group conducts research to identify gaps and leading practices in the talent development process. It convenes the appropriate stakeholders to design plans and implement actions to improve that process.
The coalition is currently working with 13 university, college and community college presidents, K-12 educators, government officials, foundations and other stakeholders to ensure that everything possible is being done to create a globally competitive workforce by 2025.
TALENT 2025’s focus is to:
•    Illuminate the gaps of performance as well as leading practices for improvement in talent development;
•    Convene leaders to collaborate on the evaluation, selection and implementation of solutions that can be taken to scale in the region;
•    Advocate for the implementation of selected leading practices and identify the resources needed, and;
•    Track the progress and celebrate the successes.