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KY Manufacturers Want More Graduates

Mon, 10/10/2011 - 5:12am

FLORENCE, Ky. (AP) — Manufacturing technology graduates are in high demand in northern Kentucky.

Gateway Community & Technical College opened its Center for Advanced Manufacturing in Florence just over a year ago, but it is still not meeting demand from area companies, according to The Kentucky Enquirer (http://bit.ly/nyxp2V).

The school has about 115 manufacturing technology graduates a year, but officials acknowledge that manufacturers need 300 or more.

Gateway President Ed Hughes says the school is "moving as fast as we can."

Trouble finding enough trained workers has machine tool maker Mazak looking at options to expand locally and around the world.

Mike Vogt, vice president for human resources, said the lack of enough graduates has led to "a little bit of the frustration out there in the manufacturing community."

"Gateway has come to manufacturers and said, 'Tell us what we need to do,'" Vogt said. "But you have to go recruit. You have to market yourself. It's a good facility. The problem is that we need to see it full."

Hughes said the center is working to get to full capacity.

Gateway Board Chairman Rick Jordan, a vice president at LSI Graphic Solutions Plus, said finding students to enter the programs is the problem.

"Gateway has the facility," Jordan said. "We've got the courses and all that. What we have is a pipeline issue."

Hughes said one problem is the perception of manufacturing as a contracting industry with grimy work.

"We need to get parents and kids in here so they can see all the high-tech equipment," he said. "Then they'll start to think, 'I could be interested in this.' That's why we built it."

The difficulty in training enough manufacturing workers is common throughout the country, and community colleges are at the forefront of the solution.

Federal officials have poured funding into two-year programs, calling them a critical element in training a 21st-century work force.

That was the impetus for Gateway to open the Center for Advanced Manufacturing, which features about $1.7 million in lab equipment, including robots, pneumatic and hydraulic machines and mechatronic trainers.

At the time, Gateway said it planned to award more degrees and offer training for workers at regional companies.

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