Getting a lesson in manufacturing technology

Career Development Center open house promotes training for unfilled jobs

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BENNINGTON — A handful of community members learned more about the Southwest Vermont Career Development Center's offerings in manufacturing during an open house on Wednesday, part of a series of outreach events in connection with National Manufacturing Day last Friday.

Lorna Cheriton and her husband, Hamilton Toeping, attended the open house together. "I was just curious about what people learn here, and interested to see the actual machines and tools," Cheriton said.

Both of Cheriton's parents were engineers; her mother was the first woman to graduate in engineering from her class in western Canada, she said.

"That's probably where my interest comes from," she said.

Adam Cannistraci, manufacturing technology instructor, led the attendees around the shop floor, showing them how machines like a CMM — a coordinate measuring machine — and others work, and showing examples of things his students have made, including a functional silver air engine built by second-year students. Air engines, also known as pneumatic motors, run on compressed air.

"You might ask, `why are we building engines'?" he said. It's about the principles of manufacturing — if students can build something like this, they have the skills to build many other things, he said.

"The idea is teaching them the lessons, not the products," he said.

Cannistraci said manufacturing is a large part of what he teaches, but not all — he also instructs students in topics like blueprint reading and principles of mechanical engineering, and they also go into "a little bit" of materials science and metallurgy.

But there is a bit of an issue finding students to take the manufacturing technology program, he said. He has 10 students in the program now.

"These are all jobs that are going unfilled," he said. "I say that very often to my students. There's no shortage of these jobs."

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And, he said, they're not specific to this area.

"The idea is that if you like this area, there's no reason to leave," he said. It's important to let students know that, he said.

Later in the tour, in the classroom, Cannistraci showed attendees 3D computer-aided design (CAD) software, in which students are given prints and have to model parts.

"We can actually design things, and then we can test them in a virtual environment," he said.

Cheriton asked Cannistraci if many young women are in the manufacturing program.

Cannistraci said it's "very unfortunate" that he's never had a female student in the manufacturing technology program, although there have been many in the CAD class he teaches.

It's also important to ensure that students see manufacturing as cool initially, so they stay involved long enough to learn how interesting it actually is, Cannistraci said.

"It's fun work to do," he said. This is his 11th year working in manufacturing, he said, and he's enjoyed it ever since he started.

"It really is interesting work," he said. "You just have to let [students] know that it is."

Patricia LeBoeuf can be reached at pleboeuf@benningtonbanner.com, @BAN_pleboeuf on Twitter and 802-447-7567, ext. 118.


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