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Thursday, September 26,2013

Advancing manufacturing

$2.14 million grant to help LCC train students, expand manufacturing industry

by Sean Bradley, Scripps Howard Foundation Wire

Thursday, Sept. 26 — The third installment of President Barack Obama’s $12 billion reform plan for the nation’s community colleges announced Thursday will benefit Lansing Community College and the mid-Michigan area in more ways than one. 


The college will receive $2.14 million from the U.S. Department of Labor and the Michigan Coalition for Advanced Manufacturing. It will use the money to focus on and improve its advanced manufacturing sector by providing courses relating to fields such as certified production technician, virtual welding and robotic welding.


The college will buy equipment for these new and existing courses.


Eight community colleges across the state are receiving funding, including Mott Community College, Grand Rapids Community College and Lake Michigan College.


Bo Garcia, the executive director of LCC’s Business and Community Institute, said the manufacturing focus is in line with the rest of the region.


“It will reaffirm the core competencies for our regional workforce,” Garcia said. “That lends itself to the ability to attract and retain industry. What that means to us is job creation and job retention.”


Last year alone, LCC trained more than 2,000 individuals and provided more than 50,000 hours of training in fields including pipe welding, robotics and hydraulics. He said a core mission of the BCI and use for the grant money will be to train workers in fields they are already working in or re-training workers for new fields.


“We are home to General Motors, and because of that, it’s our charge as a community college to enhance the assets our region has,” he said. “Much of that is automotive and manufacturing related.”


Lansing Economic Area Partnership President and CEO Bob Trezise said now is the time to use federal grant money to train workers who are not prepared for the manufacturing jobs available in the area.


“There could not be a better immediate investment the federal government could make for workforce development,” Trezise said. “If we continue to make that kind of investment, the local economy is on the verge of exploding.”


He said GM is adding 400,000 square feet to the 2.5 million-square-foot Lansing Grand River assembly plant, creating 200 new jobs.


Norplas Industries, a manufacturing subsidiary of Magna Exteriors and Interiors, announced in January the creation of a 350,000-square-foot robotic paint line and injection molding facility, creating 400 new jobs in Delta Township.


A Michigan Department of Technology, Management and Budget industry forecast projects that more than 2,800 jobs will be lost in the manufacturing sector for Ingham, Clinton and Eaton counties from 2008 to 2018.


Although the grant’s immediate assistance will benefit automotive manufacturing, Trezise said the grant will benefit similar areas in the future.


“A great example is Niowave,” he said. “They work closely with particle accelerator technology and create new kinds of lasers for military, medical and aerospace technologies.”


The payoff for job creation and employers such as GM is that training workers for high paying, high-skilled jobs will achieve three things for them and their families.


“The payoff is people will have good jobs and not have to be on assistance and providing their own health care and becoming consumers again,” Trezise said.


Garcia said that at the community college level, the grant will help colleges meet the challenge of preparing students academically to compete on a global level with less funding than in previous years.


“We are very fortunate to use these opportunities to use these resources and additional funding for curriculum development and training programs leading to increased productivity for our region,” he said.


Reach reporter Sean Bradley at sean.bradley@shns.com or 202-326-9866. This content was available through Scripps Howard Foundation Wire.

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