Brain Gain News

$15K Grant from Haas Foundation Helps EGCC Machining Students

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio – Thanks to a $15,000 grant from the Gene Haas Foundation, Eastern Gateway Community College will be able to bring more students into its machining technology program.

“The funding models are out there, but we can provide scholarships to students who need that bit of extra funding,” said Art Daly, vice president of the college’s Youngstown campus. “Some students don’t qualify, so now we have a model that says, ‘If you want to come to this program, we have the funds.’ We can get you in here, vet you and start you in the program.”

Daly joined instructors, students and Haas Automation Inc. representatives Tuesday at a check presentation in the machine shop at Choffin Career & Technical Center, where Eastern Gateway holds its machining classes.

As the demand for such jobs has grown in recent years, so too has the EGCC program, says Ryan Pasco, director of industrial trades for the college. About 30 students are enrolled currently, with classes running 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. every weekday.

“There’s a lot of overlap,” he said. “This lab is so full and in such demand that we’re holding night classes in the high school lab next door. It’s that in-demand for machinist training.”

Added instructor Carl Kovach, “I had one class at 1 and a second class that started at 1. We’re pushing kids out at 12:58. We’d be in the lab while the noncredit class was getting into the classroom.”

The scholarship funds will apply to Eastern Gateway’s noncredit machining courses, Daly said, which aren’t eligible for federal scholarships or Pell grants. Such courses allow for workers to gain a base level of knowledge, preparing them for entry-level jobs. More advanced classes can then be taken and should a student decide to pursue credentials or an associate degree, the noncredit classes can be applied toward it.

“They can come here and get the skills for an entry-level job in about 15 weeks,” Pasco said. “Machining isn’t something we can teach in one semester or two semesters. We made different programs based on what the student wants to achieve.”

Most of the machines in the lab are made by Haas, though the skills are applicable across just about any brand the students will use in their careers, Kovach said.

“Programs that are written on Haas machines can be used on others,” he said. “There are slight nuances and each control might have its own layout the manufacturer builds in, but the base skills and what they learn when writing programs can be run on any machine.”

Though most machines in Eastern Gateway’s lab are made by Haas, the skills students learn can be applied to any machine.

But it isn’t just CNC machining the students are learning, Pasco added. A banner hanging in the lab highlights soft skills students need to master to have successful careers. As they arrive at class, they clock in and, as they leave, clock out; timeliness and attendance factor into their grades, Pasco and Kovach said.

“When we go to businesses, usually the first thing they talk about is soft skills. Those are the hardest to develop, so we train students on it,” Pasco said.

Students also visit businesses in the area, providing them with exposure to the workplaces they may one day join. Last week, students visited Haas’ factory outlet in Twinsburg to see the company’s full array of machines in use, and students last year went to Brilex Industries just down the street from the EGCC machine shop.

“It showcases some of the companies for students and shows the companies what the students coming out of here are like,” Kovach said.

From Haas’ perspective, said sales engineer Chris Tsiros, funding scholarships is crucial to establishing a future for the machining industry. 

“Without machinists, our customer base and the country’s manufacturing base will be starved in their ability to manufacture. We have to develop skilled tradespeople,” he said.

And for Eastern Gateway Community College, providing scholarships and getting students into a curriculum designed in part by manufacturers in the area – through the Mahoning Valley Manufacturers Coalition – ensures they won’t just have the skills to find a job today, but advance through the career ladder and be employable long-term.

“When we talk about Brain Gain, the biggest driving factor is asking what’s going to keep people employed for long periods of time? If they’re going to have long-lasting careers, this is where it starts,” Daly said. “The partnerships we have with MVMC, other local employers and Haas all tie into it. It’s a product of everyone working to make sure we have people who are well-trained.”

Pictured: Eastern Gateway instructor Dale Toukonen, EGCC director of industrial trades Ryan Pasco, CNC instructor Carl Kovach, vice president of the Youngstown campus Art Daly, student Jonathan Markovich, Haas sales manager Scott Opel, student Jerry Bauduin and Haas sales engineer Chris Tsiros.

Copyright 2019 The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.