FabLab creates products, skilled workers

Students, entrepreneurs and small businessmen have used the fabrication lab at Mott Community College to create “everything from teething rings to automotive tools,” reports Michigan Live. A new 3D printer at the Flint, Michigan college will make it possible to “create products that are heat resistant, chemical resistant, waterproof and clear with three different choices in more durable materials.”

“(Fabrication labs are) places for people with creative ideas to get the idea off of the napkin and out of your head and get a working model in your hand,” said Tom Crampton, executive dean for Mott’s regional technology initiatives.

. . . things like prototype automotive parts will go straight from the printer to a working engine to see if what sounds good on paper works in real life.

The lab doesn’t just train students, Crampton said. It also supports product development. Flint needs more business.

Dustin Anger, 26, was a student at Mott when he came up with the idea for Specloc, a test tube clip that makes it easier to transport blood specimens. FabLab students helped him create a digital file and print a prototype.

Thomas Clark (right), of Flint, looks over a guitar designed in the Mott Community College FABLAB.

Thomas Clark (right), of Flint, looks over a guitar designed in the Mott Community College FABLAB.

Throughout the patent process, Anger printed hundreds of prototypes to decide what needed to be improved. By the end of the year, Anger plans to launch his company, DeNami Solutions.

“(Before stumbling upon the FabLab) I had no idea how to take this idea to a touchable product I could hold in my hand,” Anger said. “I met the most important connection of my life at the FabLab, the manufacturer for my product. . . . It’s a super helper. It’s a creativity sparker.

More than a half a million dollars-worth equipment will soon be coming to Mott’s FabLab to improve training in welding, machining, mechatronics and production. Training on state-of-the-art equipment will help Mott graduates find skilled jobs in automotive, aerospace, energy and other industries.

AACC: Community colleges pay off

Community colleges “launch” students, “relaunch” workers who need new skills and strengthen local economies, concludes a policy brief by the American Association of Community Colleges. Yet community colleges receive 20 percent of state funding for higher education, despite serving 43 percent of undergraduates.

In the  last decade, as states have cut higher education funding, community colleges have cut per-student operating budgets — the only higher ed sector to control costs, the policy brief notes.

Investing in community colleges pays off for students and society, Christopher Mullin, co-author of Community College Contributions, told Community College Times. Graduates with certificates and associate degrees earn more and pay more taxes. “Upskill” training helps workers move up and their employers stay competitive.

Columbus State Community College in Ohio trains workers to become supervisors, the brief notes.

Indian River State College in Florida trains workers for the growing high-tech and energy industries.

In South Carolina, Aiken Technical College trains nuclear technicians for nearby power plants.

A small business development center at Lansing Community College in Michigan provided counseling and job training that resulted in “38 new businesses and $16.5 million in total new capital,” according to AACC. Twenty percent of small business development centers are located on community college campuses.

Some community colleges are developing economic impact studies to show how their contributions to economic growth. Broward College in Florida produces a $1.40 return on every $1 invested by taxpayers, the college’s report claims.

CC helps business start-ups

Earning a GED was Jeronimo Prieto Medina’s goal when he enrolled at Central Carolina Community College in North Carolina in 1995. He went on to earn certificates in welding, hydraulics and maintenance. After years repairing heavy equipment, Medina turned to the Small Business Center (SBC) at Central Carolina for help in starting his own business. From Community College Times:

“I could tell Jeronimo had the energy and an entrepreneurial spirit, and he had the necessary resources to make his business successful,” (SBC Director Gary) Kibler said.

Kibler told Medina what he had to do and directed him to the right people and offices to do it, from registering his business, to setting up a business bank account and keeping financial records. Together, Medina and Kibler developed a pro forma profit and loss analysis, which Kibler called “sort of a sanity check” to determine that buying the truck and setting off on his own could make sense, with reasonable assumptions about developing a base of clients.

JP Mechanic and Welding started in 2009. “It’s a real good feeling being my own boss,” Medina said.

Small businesses turn to colleges for training

Small businesses are turning to local community colleges to train employees, reports the Los Angeles Times.

At Juanita’s Foods in Wilmington, for example, employees at the Mexican food manufacturer are learning how to identify and cut waste in each step it takes to make and deliver the company’s signature menudo stew, among other products.

The training takes place at the company’s sprawling factory, taught by experts from El Camino College’s Business Training Center in Hawthorne. Janitors, meat cutters, workers who can the beef tripe and hominy, and those who drive the forklifts are teamed up to learn how to find ways to cut delays and increase yields.

A state grant pays for the program.

Canyon Engineering Products Inc., a Valencia-based machine shop, sends workers to College of the Canyons in Santa Clarita. They learn how to use software programs that help design and create parts utilizing lathes, mills, routers and other machines.

Marcos Opinaldo, 60, landed a job in quality control at California Screw Products in Paramount last year after completing an intensive eight-week training program called Aerospace Fastener Boot Camp. The boot camp was created by local companies that need skilled workers, including CalScrew, and nearby community colleges.

Opinaldo was accepted into the program, based at El Camino College’s Compton campus, after his former aerospace-industry employer closed its doors.

Nationwide, community colleges will receive $2 billion in federal grants over the next four years to retrain laid-off workers.