Community college molds students for careers in medical manufacturing

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February 27, 2014

Given that national unemployment still hovers around 7%, it can be disconcerting to learn that many job openings are going unfilled because the companies cannot find qualified personnel. The skills gap is real, and companies in central Massachusetts, which has a long tradition in medical device manufacturing, are experiencing this, writes Daniel M. Asquino, President, Mount Wachusett Community College, in a piece published on www.telegram.com.

"If you're at Mount Wachusett Community College's (MWCC) Devens campus, you don't have to travel far to be at the doorstep of many healthcare manufacturers, including Bionostics, Bristol-Myers Squibb, Nypro, MagneMotion, Integra, Johnson Matthey, Celltreat, Integrated Process Technologies, and PCI Synthesis," notes Asquino. "With so many manufacturing employers in central Massachusetts, it seems inconceivable that there would be a shortage of skilled employees to fill the job openings that these companies have. But that's exactly what the current reality is. And this problem will become more pronounced as an aging workforce retires," he adds.

To find out why young people were staying away from the manufacturing sector, MWCC did some research. It found that manufacturing jobs are perceived to be dirty work with low pay and long hours. Nothing could be further from the truth, writes Asquino, noting the high-tech nature of many shop floors nowadays. He has vowed to correct misguided thinking around manufacturing-related careers and to develop training programs that would prepare students for entry- and mid-level jobs within biomedical device manufacturing companies.

With input from the local biomedical device manufacturing community and from Operon Resource Management, a Massachusetts-based temp agency for healthcare manufacturers, MWCC has created two certification training programs: a 140-hour day program called Manufacturing Career Prep, which runs for six weeks, and an 80-hour evening program called Medical Device Manufacturing Training, which runs for five weeks. Grants and funding are available for motivated students.

The objective, says Asquino, simply is to keep quality manufacturing jobs in Massachusetts and to equip students with the skills needed to qualify for available positions within these high-growth but often misunderstood industries.

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