LCCC Advanced Manufacturing and Materials Center aims to build workforce
Apr. 14—CHEYENNE — Laramie County Community College (LCCC) unveiled its new Advanced Manufacturing and Materials Center during a grand opening Friday, with hopes that it will contribute to building the local workforce and diversifying the economy.
LCCC President Joe Schaffer said economic diversification has started to feel like a buzzword and a pipe dream. Though it has never been more important in the face of the boom-and-bust cycle of Wyoming’s economy. He said the core of the state’s economy in coal can never fully recover from each bust. Likewise, the swings in the economic picture are becoming more violent.
Yet, he believes southeast Wyoming is poised incredibly well for manufacturing. This belief stems from logistical advantages, business climate, culture and industry interest.
“Now is the time for Wyoming to emerge as the next greater maker state,” he said. “A new heartland of production from both material and knowledge perspective.”
The one critical piece they lacked to make this dream possible was a pipeline of talent. President Schaffer believes the AMMC is going to be the catalyst for change.
AMMC offers Skill Development
The center sits on a renovated 14,200-square-foot space on campus for career and technical education. Students will be able to utilize both credit and non-credit programming for skill development, industry certifications and college credentials. Specific skills taught include: safety, lean manufacturing, mill and lathe operations, 3-D modeling, robotics and more.
There will also be a ZSPace available for training in virtual and augmented reality, and a Concept Forge to enable new entrepreneurs to prototype their product ideas in a fabrication lab. They will be able to access tools spanning 3-D printers to laser cutters due to funding from the U.S. Economic Development Administration and Gov. Mark Gordon’s Wyoming Innovation Project Initiative.
Funding for the entire renovation came from the LCCC Foundation, the National Association of Community College Entrepreneurship and Laramie County voters. County commissioners worked to put the build out on the 2021 sixth-penny, specific purpose sales tax ballot in the amount of more than $3 million.
Laramie County Commissioner Gunnar Malm called the AMMC an amazing asset. He is proud of the taxpayers for putting their money toward this project. Malm, son of a manufacturer, watched the trade transition from being less about the individual craftsman and more focused on complex systems.
“The need for a workforce that could operate in that sphere became harder and harder for him to get,” he said. “So I’m excited about what this has the potential to add to our communities.”
LCCC AMMC Offers Extensive Areas of Study
Schaffer told the Wyoming Tribune Eagle there are an extensive number of areas students could go into with the training provided. There won’t be just traditional reductive manufacturing which involves taking large materials and reducing them down to create a new product.
He said they’ll be able to go into large-scale steel and structural manufacturing or additive manufacturing, as well as materials manufacturing. An example he used was Alexis Drake, who works in downtown Cheyenne. He said she is a great example of an entrepreneurial manufacturer who creates purses and handmade leather goods.
The benefits and possibilities were described as endless by LCCC AMMC Director Dave Curry, and he said he smiles every time he walks into the building because of the equipment he sees.
“We’re going to be able to train people that are from Laramie County, that want to work in Laramie County and want to stay in Laramie County. I don’t know how better to sum that up,” he said. “Because, for many years, we’ve had people graduate high school, or they’ll change jobs and they leave the state of Wyoming. Now we can not only give them jobs, but actually give them a lifelong career.”
Computer Numerical Control (CNC) Operator Boot Camp May 22 through July 14, 2023
Curry said he’s excited for the first training program to start near the end of May. It will run for nine weeks and is a Computer Numerical Control (CNC) Operator boot camp. There will be close to 10 students in the course in order to test the curriculum and ensure the equipment works properly.
“Once we get our credit program starting in the fall of 2024, then a student will be able to come in and get what we call a credit diploma on the manual machine side of the house,” he said, “and then move over in the spring semester to the CNC machine.”
All of the partners involved are thrilled to see the fruits of their labor, whether it be through funding the program, helping supervise equipment selection, providing curriculum recommendations or administrative support. They are ready for students to begin coming through the doors and having a space to bring their creativity to life.
Students Need Both College and Career Options
Laramie County School District 1 Superintendent Margaret Crespo said stakeholders in the education field recognize students need both college and career options simultaneously, in order for them to navigate multiple pathways with a great foundation.
She said having the higher-education partnership with LCCC is instrumental for the success of their students. The AMMC will support those interested in career and technical education positions. Students also may not be as nervous when entering into facilities such as the one opened, because they’ll have been introduced to the manufacturing world in their own backyard.
Crespo sees it as a community anchor.
“Our students will be able to use this access point outside of their school experience,” she said. She also explained that they can work with local business leaders and entrepreneurs. “It’s a really exciting opportunity for the whole community of Cheyenne.”
Gaining Student Interest Will Be an Uphill Battle
LCCC President Schaffer recognizes gaining student interest will be an uphill battle, because they’ll have to fight against preconceived notions when it comes to manufacturing.
However, he believes the partnership with the school districts and employers who want to create pathways for apprenticeships and careers in the industry will build those connections.
“Our first programming is going to be focused more on people who are currently working or adults who are looking to make a career transition,” he said. “I’m optimistic, but I recognize it’s going to be a challenge for people to see what manufacturing means for future career growth and career opportunities.”
Jasmine Hall is the Wyoming Tribune Eagle’s state government reporter. She can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 307-633-3167. Follow her on Twitter @jasminerhphotos and on Instagram @jhrose25.
“LCCC Advanced Manufacturing and Materials Center aims to build workforce”