by Kassidy Taylor
More than 60 people gathered at the University of New Hampshire at Manchester yesterday to celebrate the grand opening of its new Engineering Technology Machine Shop. Students, alumni, faculty and staff joined politicians, business leaders and industry partners to recognize what Manchester Mayor Joyce Craig called “an important milestone” in the college’s commitment to workforce development.
“The manufacturing sector is in need of skilled workers in New Hampshire,” Craig said. “Manchester is the economic hub of the state. Through applied training in the new machine shop and its existing engineering technology facilities, UNH Manchester is preparing graduates to meet the economic demand that exists in our community.”
The college’s Engineering Technology (ET) program is particularly tied to the state’s workforce needs, evidenced by a survey of UNH’s class of 2017 by the National Association of Colleges and Employers. Of the 90 percent of ET graduates who were employed in the field upon graduation, 94 percent work and live in New Hampshire. The survey also showed that ET grads averaged a $71,923 starting salary—36 percent higher than the average starting salary for 2017 graduates.
“Right out of college, our graduates are earning competitive salaries at high-profile organizations in the state,” said Chris LeBlanc, program coordinator and assistant professor of engineering technology. “We focus on giving students a background in a wide set of skills, so they are prepared for industry.”
Equipped with vertical and horizontal milling machines, a computer numerical controlled milling machine, a lathe, various saws and a disc sander, UNH Manchester’s new Engineering Technology Machine Shop enhances the quality of teaching and research by giving students experiential learning opportunities in mechanical fabrication and testing. Sean Tavares, assistant professor of engineering technology, said new lab will further their students’ employability in manufacturing roles, which are in especially high demand.
“Students will be able to better develop the practical mechanical engineering skills that employers are looking for,” Tavares said. “Our machine shop not only falls in line with the workforce needs of the state—it also aligns with our industry and community college partners.”
UNH Manchester’s two-year Electrical Engineering Technology and Mechanical Engineering Technology programs offer bachelor’s degree completion for students who hold a related associate degree. With the majority of ET students coming to UNH Manchester from a New Hampshire community college, aligning the curricula is even more essential. LeBlanc said the new machine shop allows students to put theoretical concepts into action.
“Many of our students have done extensive hands-on work in the well-equipped community college labs and machine shops,” LeBlanc said. “With our new facility, they will continue to build on these experiences and apply what they are learning in their bachelor’s degree coursework in meaningful ways.”
LeBlanc credited Robert Arredondo, senior lecturer of mechanical engineering technology, for his expertise in equipping the machine shop. Arredondo had expertise designing similar labs at NHTI during his tenure as chair of the college’s Manufacturing Engineering Technology department.
The grand opening event included tours of the new facility and equipment demonstrations. It also featured remarks from UNH Manchester Dean Mike Decelle, UNH Vice President for Finance and Administration Chris Clement and David Smith, vice president and general manager of Burndy, LLC., a Manchester-based subsidiary of Hubbell.
Decelle thanked the Community College System of New Hampshire and Burndy for donating equipment to the machine shop, and the Hubbell Foundation for creating the Hubbell Construction and Energy Engineering Scholarship Fund to support underrepresented students in the ET program. He said the college will continue to advance the program and expand its partnerships with industry.
“The machine shop is a significant step in strengthening our Engineering Technology program,” Decelle said. “We look forward to building upon this initiative with our internal and external partners to grow the workforce pipeline for manufacturers across the state.”
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