The third episode of the award-winning “degrees that work.” television series, a co-production of Pennsylvania College of Technology and WVIA-TV, is set to premiere on the public-television station at 7 p.m. on May 17.
The “degrees that work.” series is designed to build awareness of careers that may not be familiar to the public but offer ample career opportunities. The topics have been developed to coincide with Pennsylvania’s “targeted industry clusters,” which the state has identified as potential areas of growth.
The series’ newest episode focuses on advanced manufacturing, which uses high technology to maximize the efficiency, productivity and safety of the manufacturing process. Most manufacturing in the United States fits that definition, yet the sector often suffers from outdated perceptions about its work environment and the quality of its jobs.
The episode reveals advanced manufacturing through the eyes of today’s students and industry leaders. Penn College’s 2008 SAE Baja team, consisting of students in the college’s Society of Manufacturing Engineers student chapter, is the heart of the episode. Penn College took 11 students, two cars and two faculty members to the 2008 Society of Automotive Engineers Collegiate Design Series “Baja SAE Montreal” contest in June.
A Baja car is an off-road, single-seat vehicle. The documentary chronicles the Penn College team designing and constructing a new Baja car (150 pounds lighter than the previous year’s car) and competing with it against more than 90 other schools in Orford, Quebec. Baja SAE Montreal consisted of four days of events geared to test all aspects of the cars, including a four-hour endurance race over rough terrain.
Design began by modeling each part using three-dimensional software. The Penn College team then made most of the parts with high-tech computer-numeric-controlled equipment that offers precision machining. In all, the Penn College students made 80 percent of the new car’s 120 components, an accomplishment for which many college teams don’t have the capability.
“The pride that I have, and the rest of the team members have, in this car is that we can point and say that we made that part,” said Lance C. Spotts, team captain. “This isn’t only a college competition tool. This is a good tool to put on your resume. You can go to a future employer and say, “I helped construct this.’”
Spotts earned an associate degree in toolmaking technology in August. In September, he was hired by Lycoming Engines, where he works full time as a tool designer/manufacturing engineer.
Because of the hands-on problem-solving experience, initiative and teamwork involved in such competitions, Jason Rounds, technical inspector of SAE International and a technical specialist for Honda Manufacturing of Alabama, said he and other companies were actively recruiting their future workforce during Baja SAE Montreal.
“We see it at Honda; the students who came through the Baja program are going to higher positions more quickly,” Rounds said. “They come in; they’re ready to work.”
The type of careers available in advanced manufacturing is explored with two world-leading manufacturers Victualic and Synthes as well as the National Association of Manufacturers and Penn College faculty members from the School of Industrial and Engineering Technologies. Victaulic’s products and piping systems facilitate fluid-handling applications, and Synthes develops and manufacturers orthopedic instruments and implants to repair bone fractures. The National Association of Manufacturers is the nation’s largest industrial trade organization.
Those interviewed include Penn College faculty members Eric K. Albert, associate professor of machine tool technology/automated manufacturing; Richard K. Hendricks, instructor of machine tool technology/automated manufacturing; and John G. Upcraft, instructor of machine tool technology.
Other featured interviews are with Sam Barill, manager of collegiate programs for SAE International; Robert Collevechio, vice president of human resources for Victaulic; Michael Sticklin, human resources manager for Synthes (USA); and Emily Stover DeRocco, senior vice president for the National Association of Manufacturers.
Recruiting is important for 21st-century manufacturers, who must compete for a shrinking talent pool while trying to replace retiring workers. Nielsen Research estimates that approximately 40 percent of the manufacturing skilled workforce will retire within the next five years.
“We simply don’t have young people lined up at the entrance doors, prepared and ready for those terrific careers,” said Stover DeRocco, a former U.S. assistant secretary of labor for employment and training. “Eighty percent of our manufacturers report that, today, they can’t find the skilled workers they need in order to continue to remain productive and grow in this economy.”
Advanced manufacturing requires skilled machinists and engineers. CNC machinists usually have associate degrees in automated manufacturing, toolmaking technology or a related discipline, while engineers hold bachelor’s degrees in their fields of specialty.
“In the last eight years, the available talent pool of skilled machinists has decreased rapidly,” Sticklin said, “and we have a problem recruiting and finding qualified machinists and engineers, as well: mechanical engineers, design engineers, manufacturing engineers.”
In return for earning the mathematics-laden education that modern manufacturing demands, those skilled employees are well-compensated. According to the National Association of Manufacturers, the average annual salary and benefit package in the manufacturing sector is nearly $71,000, which is 20 percent higher than the average compensation for the rest of the workforce. The employees also are rewarded with a stimulating career.
“I don’t think there’s (another) field that offers this opportunity to create,” DeRocco said. “To design, create, innovate, to use technology, to drive change I think that’s what advanced manufacturing is all about.”
Following its premiere in northeastern and northcentral Pennsylvania on May 17, the “degrees that work: Advanced Manufacturing” episode is scheduled to air on WVIA on Thursday, May 21, at 10:30 p.m.; Thursday, May 28, at 8 p.m.; and Sunday, May 31, at 3 p.m. The series also airs on other public television stations and is available online .
Educators are invited to download the advanced manufacturing episode, as well as previous programs on nanotechnology and welding, for classroom use.