MCCC to Expand Free Community College Program Under New State Budget
WEST WINDSOR – The American manufacturing industry has gone high-tech, with thousands of open positions begging to be filled – and not enough workers to fill them. Enter the Mercer County Community College (MCCC) Advanced Manufacturing program, where a two-year degree or certificate can open the door to rewarding careers with tremendous earning potential.
“Companies are looking for students with these types of skills,” said Michael Hanna, coordinator of the Advanced Manufacturing Technology program at MCCC, noting that newly-minted graduates can start at $15-$25 an hour and quickly advance to $30 an hour or more, plus overtime. “The sky’s the limit, honestly.”
MCCC will be showcasing its recently-constructed Advanced Manufacturing lab and discussing career opportunities during an open house on Sunday, Aug. 18, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. in the Engineering Science Building, Room ES100, on the West Windsor Campus. The open house will be coordinated with the support of industrial partners Gaum, Inc., RBC Bearings, and KNF Neuberger, Inc.
“Our students manufacture real parts, inspected by a third party, which are these three companies,” Hanna said. “Once they have completed the program, our graduates are qualified to be machinists, manual or CNC (computer numerical control), for careers in advanced manufacturing.”
The showpiece of the MCCC Advanced Manufacturing program is the state-of-the-art lab, which was constructed less than two years ago. Students can gain a basic understanding of precision machining first with more traditional equipment, such as drill presses and lathes, and move on to more advanced equipment, such as the CNC machines and equipment focused on metallurgy and how the properties of metals can change, such as the hardness tester.
Even though Advanced Manufacturing at Mercer is still new, students are already seeking out the program – for a variety of career objectives. Andrew Hanson, a recent graduate of Hamilton West, said he was investigating possibilities for a new major after first being interested in Construction Technology. Robotics and Engineering also appealed to him, but said that Advanced Manufacturing seemed to be a natural fit with several of his personal interests.
“I’ve always been into building things since high school – I liked it a lot,” Hanson said. “I tend to do well in classes I really like.”
And the earning potential, he said, is a great added bonus.
“I’m surprised not a lot more people aren’t doing this,” Hanson said. “There is a lot of money to be made. The people that do this type of work are retiring faster than they can be replenished.”
Other students, however, are already working in the field and are returning to Mercer to gain experience and training on the new state-of-the-art equipment to advance their careers. John Hagner of Hamilton has been working at VEP Manufacturing in Jackson, N.J., for two years and is gaining the additional training with the assistance and support of his employer.
“I wanted to advance, and that is why I joined this program,” Hagar, who is hearing impaired, said through an interpreter. “This program is definitely more challenging, working with manual equipment all the way up to computer software. Sure we make mistakes, but that’s how you learn. That’s how you improve yourself.”
Lawrenceville resident Ronni Blasz is another student who has enrolled in Advanced Manufacturing classes to advance her career – but as a teacher rather than as a machinist. She is currently working on her teaching certificate for technical education, and the Mercer program was a perfect fit.
“It is a really good opportunity for people who want to become teachers; it’s a really good path,” Blasz said. “This could not be a better fit for me.”
Blasz noted that she has been taking classes at The College of New Jersey to work toward her teaching certification, but there were no hands-on options like the MCCC Advanced Manufacturing classes. This, she said, will give her the background and experience to teach in her chosen field.
“It’s a secret, and it shouldn’t be a secret,” Blasz said of the MCCC program. “I’m very thankful to have the opportunity to be here and take this class. I would not be able to get my teaching license if not for this class.”
Students interested in the MCCC Advanced Manufacturing Program can contact Michael Hanna at (609) 570-3828 or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.