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Skilled teens make future of industry look brighter

Friday, June 25, 2010   (0 Comments)
Posted by: Matthew Montoya
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SOUTH PORTLAND - Campers wearing face shields and protective leather gear watched as sparks flew off the torch, fell to the floor and bounced off the instructor. Then it was their turn to practice oxy-acetylene cutting.

"You want cherry red. You want to hang out there, oh, 10 seconds," Tom Howard, the welding instructor, told a camper. "Excellent. Good cut."

In the Mind Over Metal camp at Southern Maine Community College, teenagers will learn welding, machining and related skills, and gain exposure to career possibilities in manufacturing.

Thirteen boys, ages 13 to 17, are participating this week. An advanced session is scheduled for July 5-10.

Camp Director John Bolduc hopes some students will consider manufacturing as a career. The future of the industry depends on it, he said.

"The work force is getting old. If we don't have another generation going into this work, we're going to be in trouble," said Bolduc, chairman of SMCC's Integrated Manufacturing Technology Department.

Small sculptures, nameplates, pens and pen holders were among the camp projects this week. Their creation required campers to operate lathes, power cut-off saws and milling machines. They used digital calipers, height gauges and math skills, and did various types of welding and cutting.

"It's really fun, actually. You get to create anything you want," said Isaac Santerre, 14, a freshman at Casco Bay High School in Portland.

This week's camp is one of 20 programs that won grants from Nuts, Bolts & Thingamajigs, the foundation of the Fabricators & Manufacturers Association. Foundation spokeswoman Pat Lee said the hope is to expand that to 325 -- the number of community colleges that belong to its partner, the National Association for Community College Entrepreneurship.

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