Advanced Technology Center launches manufacturing program 

Monadnock Ledger-Transcript
Monday, February 26, 2018 5:54PM

Region 14 Applied Technology Center, which serves ConVal and the Jaffrey-Rindge School District, will launch a manufacturing program this fall aimed at preparing its students for careers in the industry. 

John Reitnauer, director of the Region 14 ATC program, said the state requires the center to answer two questions before it implements a new program, which includes, is there a community need for the program? And does it provide a livable wage?

“And both of those questions are answered with this program,” Reitnauer said about the new manufacturing program.

He said that the Monadnock region is a “manufacturing mecca,” pointing to Hitchiner Manufacturing Co, Graphicast, Millipore Corporation, and the Monadnock Paper Mill as just a number of examples.  

“Manufacturing is alive,” Reitnauer said.

Val Zanchuk, President of GraphiCast in Jaffrey, said the lack of skilled workforce for manufacturing jobs is a widespread problem.

“It’s a nationwide problem,” he said. “It’s not unique to the state or even the country.”

Reitnauer said part of the problem is that people who are working in the field are aging out and there are not many people ready to replace them.

One of the goals of the new program is to bridge that gap in the Monadnock region. 

Zanchuk said an 18-year-old with “interest and some ambition” could rise in the ranks of employees at a local manufacturing company. He said many of the companies also provide tuition assistance that could further their career opportunities. 

“It makes a lot of economic sense,” Zanchuk said about the track.

He compared it to a standard four-year higher education degree that leaves some students chained to crippling debt. 

Now Reitnauer said they are trying to erase preconceived notions about what manufacturing is. He said people are under the impression that these factories are old and dirty, but these spaces are “nothing like that.”

“We’re trying to get students to understand what manufacturing is,” Reitnauer said. “It’s clean. These are state-of-the-art facilities with amazing technology.”

So far, Reitnauer said, about 15 students have signed up for the program.

He said the program comes at a “minimal” cost to the district, although didn’t say the exact number. Reitnauer said the woodworking teacher will teach the manufacturing class, and they are receiving some donations from local companies.

Zanchuk said GraphiCast will provide students involved in the program with opportunities to visit the facility, work-based learning experience, and a mentoring collaboration between its staff and young adults. He said in addition to teaching students how to run a machine, the work-based learning experience will teach young adults real-world skills like showing up for work on time and building their confidence to ask questions. Those skills are applicable to all manufacturing jobs across the region, he said. 

The program will be two semesters long, and if completed, could shave off a year of a two-year post-high school manufacturing  track.

The implementation of the  manufacturing program marks the tenth program for Region 14. Reitnauer said this school year about 350 students took advantage of ATC courses. That’s up from 320 students the previous school year. Reitnauer said the center was opened in 1995 and that programming has come-and-gone over the years depending on labor statistics. Last year, it added a fire science program. In the future, Reitnauer said he hopes to add a health science track due to the shortage of workers in the region.

“This will be a great opportunity,” Zanchuk said about the region’s newest manufacturing program.