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CNC Training Center Fills the Workforce Gap

Ohio CNC training center located within a manufacturing facility not only trains the host company’s employees but also those throughout the northeast Ohio region.

Posted: June 15, 2022

ACTC students learn on CNC mills and lathes.
Students at ACTC learn G Code programming and related classroom material.

One of the biggest challenges CNC machining and metalworking companies face in 2022 is a lack of skilled and knowledgeable workers to produce the products on order from companies. Most CNC companies have experienced a high demand for their metal products. During the height of the pandemic their companies were deemed essential. The industry learned that their products and skilled workers were nearly pandemic proof.

After the pandemic lessened, nearly 3 million workers were expected to return to their prior jobs — but that didn’t happen. Most people who enter into training programs are usually workers in lower paying jobs that want to improve their employment situations through training to upgrade their skill sets. So, without the return of    the 3 million workers after the pandemic eased, the shortage persists.

Training Center’s Roots

Fifteen years ago, an Ohio state registered training program launched to provide companies with employees and graduates with jobs. In 2007, the Akron CNC Training Center (ACTC) started its instruction with just seven students. In a unique arrangement the center was located within a building owned by of           one of the center’s two founding machine shops. Lee Combs owned S.C. Manufacturing and started the center with his daughter, and current training center director, Laurie Norval. The new program started quickly because the founders met with and subsequently branched off a CNC school in the Cleveland ,             , ,    Ohio area called the Cleveland Industrial Training Center. The Cleveland center is also located in a building with a live CNC company called Boreman Enterprises. Because the Cleveland location had its approvals and methods of functioning in place for years as a state registered training program, the launch of the Akron location was much faster than starting a program on their own. These two training centers are about 45 minutes apart and therefore do not draw on the same pool of potential students.

Years passed and Combs sold his business; and the building that housed the training center was later sold. The center found a new collaboration with OGS Industries. OGS had space in a company it owned called Lehner Screw Machine. The company created space in the plant for the center’s equipment and had space  for a classroom and offices.

ACTC trains employees of Lehner Screw Machine as a benefit for hosting the school in the plant. The relationship has been beneficial for both of the parties. At times, if the fit is right, a graduate may become hired at Lehner Screw Machine.

With the center located in a live CNC machining plant, tours for applicants are much more informative and visual. One of the machining industry’s obstacles to attracting workers is a lack and understanding of what the trade is about. The general public either has no idea of what CNC machining is about or they have a very outdated idea. When a potential student comes for a tour, they are shown the center’s facilities and then given a tour of the plant with employees working. This gives visitors a first-hand picture of what they will be doing for work and what a workplace environment looks like.

Most applicants can decide after a tour if they think the training and profession are right for them.

The Lehner Screw Machine plant is clean, bright, quiet and efficient. The company produces aerospace components, military parts and automotive components. When visitors see the center and plant, they can see themselves working in a company such as this. After only four months of training, trainees are ready to work in one of the nearly 1,100 CNC companies in the northeast Ohio area.


Successfully Training and Upskilling Manufacturing Personnel

The training center services a variety of people. Student applicants come to the school at all ages and in some cases their math skills are less than required. The applicants are given a free entrance exam in part to assess their basic math skills. When applicants do not pass the test, they are offered a free tutor session to bring them up to speed with those skills. Most applicants who take the tutor session end up passing the test after reviewing. All students are offered no cost tutoring during the training as well. There are a number of catch nets that the school has built in to help retain the students so they can complete training.

The training is offered in the mornings and evenings to match with working students’ schedules. There is no training on Fridays which allows working students to handle responsibilities outside of school.

The curriculum consists of hands-on machine training and classroom instruction. There are no unrelated subjects taught. This helps students stay focused knowing they will be using all the knowledge and skills in some measure at their new job or with the company who has decided to train them.

The other segment of manufacturing that ACTC offers is training for companies. Currently, in the state of Ohio, there is a program called Tech Cred where companies can train their employees in 12 months or less and upon completion, the state of Ohio will reimburse the company up to

$2,000 of the training cost. The training center is working with more companies who are taking advantage of the Tech Cred program to move employees into the CNC department where they are needed after training. Instead of searching for a brand new employee, companies take an existing, lesser skilled employee and train them through Akron CNC Training Center to prepare to move them into a CNC role. Most employees being trained by way of Tech Cred are happy to be in the training program because they know they will typically have a better skilled and better paying job once they graduate.

As workforce issues persist, the center continues to train and place graduates but also is working to meet the needs of companies who want to upskill their own workers as well. With more than 1,000 graduates, the center continues to adjust training to meet workforce needs.

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