T-SEC Powers Job Skills Training in 3D Printing at SUNY Rockland
3D print lab and jobs skills
The outlines of the problem are so visible as to be obvious: In the Hudson Valley, as in many parts of the world, manufacturing jobs are plentiful but people with the necessary job skills to fill those jobs have become scarcer than the proverbial hen’s teeth.
Technology is creating sweeping advances in how the tech products we use every day, like our mobile devices, are manufactured.
All the world over, flat-screen TVs, medical devices, solar panels, and food processing equipment are needed and require the flexibility of ever-evolving advanced manufacturing techniques.
3D printing essential to advanced manufacturing
Local economic growth has long been driven by a strong manufacturing sector.
Now, 3D printing is one of the components of advanced manufacturing that has become an essential feature of any advanced manufacturing fabrication shop’s equipment stack.
It allows designers and engineers to quickly prototype and test design and engineering concepts so that the equipment that is manufactured works as it is intended to.
But 3D printing equipment is costly and calls for entirely different job skills than, say, injection molding.
So, how does the Hudson Valley get a workforce ready with the job skills needed by area advanced manufacturers?
That’s where collaboration comes in.
The Strategic Economic Consortium (T-SEC), through partnerships with community colleges around the Hudson Valley, has established various opportunities within 3-D printing by providing equipment at select college campuses.
3D print lab available to educators, students, and regional manufacturers and businesses
In particular, SUNY Rockland has a T-SEC funded 3D print lab at its Haverstraw extension campus, making access to, and training on the technology available to educators, students, and the regional manufacturing and business communities.
The right equipment is, of course, essential! T-SEC’s 3D Print center at The Haverstraw Center boasts several 3D printers, including the state of the art Stratasys J750.
And, Stratasys is no stranger to fostering career and technical programs. They know that today’s students will be tomorrow’s employees and offer educators many kinds of resources, including:
- Education packages, which they describe here.
- Student certification in Additive Manufacturing which they describe here.
- Partnerships with resellers for the right equipment which they describe here.
The right job skills
To make it all work, however, preparing students with the right job skills is crucial.
Thanks in large part to the vision of Dr. Penny Jennings, the Haverstraw Center at Rockland Community College — a SUNY/T-SEC partner since 2013 — is turning out trained CAD and 3-D printing professionals and transforming lives in the process.
To Learn More About the 3D Print Center Read About It here
“I started working for Rockland Community College in September of 2017 as the Director of the Rockland County Career Center. One year later, in October of 2018, I was moved to the role of Executive Director of Strategic Initiatives, in a cross-training program. It was at that time that the President of the college told me about his vision to train and prepare people for ‘middle skills’ jobs, that don’t require a college degree but do require a very specific skill set.
My background in workforce development positioned me to understand the needs of employers and employees, which enabled me to create well-designed programs to bring the vision to fruition. ”
Dr. Jennings oversees middle-skills training at SUNY Rockland to prepare a workforce
Jennings, whose current job title at the college is Executive Director of Strategic Initiatives (Career Skills & Workforce Development Training Programs), saw both the need and the possibilities.
“Advanced manufacturing and computer repair currently account for 54 percent of the labor market, but only 44 percent of workers are trained for it.
We wanted to create a model that could offer short certification tracks.”
Jennings saw the potential for multiple benefits.
“Manufacturers need this; in fact, they embrace it. There is a phenomenon that is occurring right now, which some are calling the silver exodus, where a lot of people who have these skills are retiring at the same time. People are in desperate need of the certificate programs offered at RCC’s Career Skills Academy.
In the lower Hudson Valley, the cost of living is incompatible with a typical entry-level wage. You can’t raise a family here on $14 an hour; you’re lucky if you can rent a studio apartment.”
A quick glance at Indeed.com indicates over 200 job postings for CAD professionals, with salaries in the mid to high five figures.
Dr. Jennings observed that the 3D printing and design equipment at the Haverstraw Center was being underutilized, and lost no time in creating the Middle Skills Academy (now called Career Skills).
Launching a Career Skills Academy
“College president Dr. Baston wanted this done by September of 2019, but I said, ‘Let’s start this January of 2019.’
People were looking at me like I must be nuts to think I could accomplish so much in only three months. ‘You have no staff,’ they said. They didn’t really understand my passion for empowering people to achieve self-sufficiency.”
Sure enough, the Middle Skills Academy was up and running that January, offering certification tracks in IT support, auto under-car tech, social media entrepreneurship, and CAD drafting and 3D modeling,
“One of the more successful tracks has been the CAD/3D training,” says Jennings.
“Because the equipment is provided by T-SEC, we’re able to offer it to the business and entrepreneurial community alongside students and instructors.
It builds a virtuous cycle. Of the first group of students to take the program last spring, aside from one who moved away and another who is pursuing a career in animation every single one got hired.”
One happy graduate is Monroe resident Amanda Dineen.
“My dad is an engineer and I have a BA in art,” she says, “and I wanted to expand into 3D modeling and computer programming, by getting those job skills.
I took a look at Rockland and found this; in two months, they taught us CAD and Excel, and a month later I found a job.”
Hired upon completion: 3D print job skills the market is looking for
As a design assistant at Creative Design Construction, she services the computer systems used by architects at the award-winning New Jersey-based firm to create everything from bathroom remodels to entire homes and says she feels well-equipped for the future.
“I needed to figure something out, and you have to start somewhere, but this program was enormously helpful in equipping me to start with something I enjoy and can grow in,” she says.
“I have a thorough understanding of the programs and I’ll be able to teach myself other ones based on what I’ve learned. I talked to one of my former classmates the other day, and he loves his job too.”
Jennings says the Career Skills Academy’s short-term job skills training programs are a really good fit for the conditions facing both employers and career-seekers on the ground.
“Community college enrollment is down, and to be of service we need to adapt to the changing times,” she says. “One in five jobs created in the next four years is going to be a middle-skills job; once you understand 3D printing and IT and can build and troubleshoot programs, you can go anywhere.”
As someone with a background in anti-poverty work, she could not be happier with the way the courses and the Haverstraw Center interlock.
“It’s no longer typical for someone to leave school and find one single job that will remain the same for 30 years,” she says. “We need to give people portable skills and the tool kits to be entrepreneurial on their own behalf, and this technology really enhances that capability.
“One of the social media marketing students was developing her own jewelry business and uses 3D printing for her manufacturing. Our auto tech program prints up parts. It all just fits together so well.”