Ramsey County, Local College Fabricate Manufacturing Careers
4 Oct 2021
Workforce, News, Stories
Offer the term “manufacturing” to a jobseeker and their perception may be one of a dark, dirty work environment and a monotonous experience. But the reality is today’s manufacturing careers are exciting and dependent on high technology equipment. Additionally, manufacturers cannot find enough people to do these jobs.
“Today’s manufacturing careers rely on new technology, making them a lot more flashy and interesting than the stereotypical manufacturing job,” said Randy Jasken, faculty member at Ramsey County’s Century College. “And local industry is asking for more people to fill their openings.”
Meeting Workforce Demand
Century College is filling that industry void with its new Additive and Digital Manufacturing program. Graduates of the program take jobs such as manufacturing engineer, laser or 3D technician and prototype technician at recognizable, local companies like 3M, Boston Scientific, Innovize and Medtronic. While Jasken said the program name may be somewhat of a mouthful, it is a new and emerging field that meets exactly what manufacturing companies are looking for.
“We have placed 100% of our students in jobs directly addressing manufacturer’s needs right now,” he said. “Machines are getting simpler, so businesses are not hiring so much for a specific skill like CAD or CNC, but really just looking to hire those with basic computer and technology skills, like how to run a 3D printer.”
Students in the Additive and Digital Manufacturing program receive an Associate in Applied Science Degree, covering 60 credits over two years. The Additive Manufacturing aspect refers to 3D printing, where students are taught a variety of 3D printing technologies, along with advanced CAD work in a primarily hands-on environment. The Digital Manufacturing portion focuses on the machines and technology currently used on manufacturing floors today.
To accomplish these goals, Century College opened the new Applied Technology Center this fall, the result of a $6.4 million bonding bill passed by the Minnesota State Legislature in 2018. The Center is the main laboratory for the Additive and Digital Manufacturing program, allowing students the ability to train on state-of-the-art equipment like a 7-axis CNC robotic carver, cobots for pick and place/assembly processes, vision inspection systems and automated control systems like PLCs. One fascinating tool is a 3D metal printer which prints stainless steel. Jasken said it is the only one to his knowledge at an educational institution not dedicated to a research department.
“All of this equipment is a direct segment within our curriculum and for use by our students,” he said.
The program also includes a 16-credit Biofabrication Technologist certificate, which combines the additive and digital manufacturing with biology. Students at Century College are doing cancer research, printing out living cells and utilizing 3D microscopes.
“This is a testament of the importance of teaching skills,” said Jasken. “Everyone is utilizing 3D printers and our students complete our program with an extremely broad skill base.”
Prior to the Applied Technology Center, Century College relied on their Fab Lab, an extremely advantageous resource workshop area for students to design, prototype and build whatever they can imagine. It was the first of its kind in Ramsey County when it was built in 2007, with several renovations that followed over the years. The lab is equipped with open source CAD/CAM software, allowing people to design and manufacture products utilizing a wide range of equipment, including 3D printers, laser engravers, several mini-mill machines, vinyl sheet or sign cutters, a CNC ShopBot Router and various hand tools and bench-top machines.
“Most of our students used some version of this equipment in high school, but we have the expensive, industry-standard equipment here,” said Jason Huebscher, Fab Lab Manager. “The equipment is very similar to what students will find in the workplace: physically safe, with the majority of the work being digital, requiring software skills.”
Focus on Future
Moving forward, both faculty members are eager to continue working with students, providing the skills they need to start good careers in exciting manufacturing positions.
“We want to produce students who plug into the manufacturing environment by giving them hands-on experience and confidence to meet the constant improvements technology brings,” said Jasken. “We try to give them as much exposure to technology, so they understand gaining these jobs is a real possibility for them.”
Century College’s new Applied Technology Center Open House
Tuesday, October 19 from 4:00 - 7:30p.m.
Open to prospective students and families to check out these new facilities and the campus for themselves. Go to www.century.edu for more event information.