“If it wasn’t for those three students and our own staff, the lab would not have been ready for the start of the fall semester,” Webb said. “It was a feat. We were behind by at least a month because of the pandemic. There were long days and weeks.”
The college auctioned 44 old machines before purchasing the new equipment. The replacements include more than two dozen dual-purpose CNC mills and lathes that facilitate both manual and – adhering to Ward’s wishes – automated operations.
“While CNC is great, we have a fundamental belief that understanding the manual process makes you a better machinist. We start students there and move up into the CNC applications,” Webb explained. “The dual-purpose machines allow our students to get a much broader experience, beginning in their first semester.”
“There’s going to be a wide array of machines that I can say that I know how to use,” Harrison said. “When I show up for my first week of work and they are expecting to train a kid who doesn’t know how to do anything, I can show them that I actually know a thing or two.”
Ward appreciates the college’s approach, which has resulted in a near 100% placement rate for graduates of manufacturing-related programs.
“The students that come out of here are well-trained,” he said. “With manufacturing coming back, Penn College is giving America what we need. We don’t have enough people with technical skills. Penn College teaches them those skills.”
Deloitte and the Manufacturing Institute estimate that more than half of the projected 4.6 million manufacturing job openings during the next decade won’t be filled because of the skills gap. The new lab full of drill presses, surface grinders, dual-purpose CNC lathes and mills, and electrical discharge machines will enhance Penn College’s pivotal role in shrinking that gap.
“The students now have access to the new technology on their own machine, learning and operating that machine during their class period,” Webb said. “They also still have access to the manual skills and to faculty who have worked in industry. Our students are ready when they leave here to really hit the ground running.”
Just like Ward was more than 50 years ago.
“They taught me here to do a good job, stand behind what you do and you’ll do well,” he said.
“I have done very well, so I want to give it back for the next generation.”