Forming the future
Co-op students are involved in all aspects of the manufacturing process at Metso Automation in Shrewsbury. They build testing equipment to ship to other facilities. They tune and calibrate valves, throttle flow and generate reports for customers -- which must be accurate. A major oil company, and customer, recently came in to do an audit, and while the facility successfully met all their requirements, what really impressed the oil company executives was the program Metso is using to help develop local students into
Pictured from left to right are: Valerie Butler, Sophomore at WPI and Lab Technical Assistant; Michael Carlo, Worcester Technical High School student and Jr. Lab Technician in training; Valerie Spangenburg, QCC student and Jr. Lab Technician R&D; Robert Zarella, QCC student and Jr. Lab Technician; Mike Bouckaert, QCC student and Jr. Lab Technician; Emmanuel Gomez, Sr. Lab Technician, Metso Automation; John Kennedy, R&D Lab Supervisor, Metso Automation and David Bayreuther, VP of Engineering, Metso Automation. Not pictured is Bobby Rassouphengthon a QCC student and Jr. Lab Technician.
their future workforce.
As retirement age approaches for baby boomers, and the threat of skilled labor shortages becomes a reality, some manufacturers have begun to panic. Meanwhile, Metso, a manufacturer of industrial valves and controls, has been forming important local partnerships and taking action to avert the problem as part of their involvement in Mass-TEC. The Mass-TEC initiative* focused on developing a skilled workforce for the
Worcester-area manufacturing community
through educating career influencers and
increasing awareness about the opportunities
that exist in manufacturing today.
New employees with up-to-date skills
Their initial endeavor began with Emmanuel Gomez, a student from Quinsigamond Community College (QCC) who later became Metso’s first hire from the program. Emmanuel was in Electromechanical Technology when he discovered that a co-op experience was a graduation requirement. At the same time Metso was interested in offering mentorship to a student with the updated computer skills needed to calibrate their newer equipment.
Emmanuel began working at Metso within the month; that was almost six years ago. John Kennedy, Metso’s R & D Laboratory Supervisor, worked with both Emmanuel and the college to develop a co-op program to meet all the school’s requirements. “I recognized that the expertise needed for traditional manufacturing was changing,” says Kennedy. “Companies need to automate, become more efficient and update their employee’s skill sets for the future. Our relationship with both technical high school and college students has provided us with an infusion of new employees with the most up to date skills, to help us transition.”
“Jim Heffernan (professor of Electromechanical Technology and Coordinator of the Electronics-Related Programs at QCC) also played a huge role as an advisor to both me and Metso,” says Emmanuel. “It was a fantastic opportunity. I gained experience in an actual manufacturing environment and could apply what I was learning at QCC to real life situations at Metso. Everything just seemed to make so much more sense. Sometimes in class you try to put the pieces together and wonder,” how am I going to use this? It is great to acquire knowledge in real life that matters to a company and to a customer - you can’t get that from a class!”
Outside of Metso, both John and Emmanuel serve on panels for QCC and Worcester Technical High School as liaisons from the manufacturing community to offer input to help align course offerings with skills that manufacturers need.
Emmanuel recently began taking classes at U Mass Lowell towards his engineering degree. Metso reimbursed him for his QCC classes so he graduated debt-free and was able to buy a home. He will also be reimbursed for his engineering courses. “On my own I probably never could have done this!” he says. “John (Kennedy) kept me moving forward and stressed the importance of education. Without him, and without Metso, I would not have had these opportunities.”
Fully Trained and Ready to Go!
“We decided that reaching students at the high school level would be even more beneficial since it gives them longer to interact with the company, so we began working with Worcester Technical High School,” says David Bayreuther, Metso’s VP of Engineering. The students come to Metso as juniors or seniors and the company will provide them with scholarships to QCC. Upon graduation from QCC these students will have their associate’s degree and three years of practical work experience at Metso – fully trained and ready to go!
Valerie Spangenberg graduated from the Electromechanical Program at Worcester Technical High School and received the first Metso Scholarship to QCC. She will graduate from QCC in December 2010 with an Associate’s Degree in Electromechanical and hopes to continue on and eventually get her master’s in science or engineering. “Co-op allows students to go out and actually work every other week from their junior year. I worked in the R & D lab and have continued working at Metso while going to QCC for two years,” says Valerie. “It is wonderful to get this kind of experience -- especially with this economy -- and its’ great to have a job!”
Bobby Rassouphengthon, a student in Metso’s Top Works Department, programs and tunes valve controllers. These systems connect diagnostic devices on the valves to engineers’ computers all over the world to help them monitor and diagnose their operations. Metso handles activation, automation, emergency closure, and digital intelligence sensors for process valves which keep processes running. Valves can be controlled remotely with these systems for ease and to avert problems. Students have helped design instrumentation and restructure the designs for various client needs. Bobby has become the “go-to guy” in Top Works because he has training on the most cutting edge equipment and technology and shares that knowledge with Metso veterans.
Students become interns and then valuable employees who teach as well as learn.
As automation provides a new career path in manufacturing it requires people with updated knowledge to keep the machines running – this is one important gap the co-op program is filling. Metso takes students with advanced electronic and robotics abilities and pairs them with veteran employees who have a tremendous amount of hands-on trade expertise and company knowledge. “These kids are getting global awareness with this experience; wherever they go, it goes with them,” says Kennedy.
“Every year the group of students we can choose to work with keeps getting better and better. We even invite students into our management meetings to give us feedback on the needs they see at Metso. They have really got the attention of our management team.” he added.
“The students bring us updated technology and skills and ideas and the company benefits tremendously. They are priceless and what they bring to us is priceless. They are helping us develop ideas for things that will bring more to the company in the future. The value of the partnership is this: students become interns and then valuable employees who teach as well as learn.” John Kennedy
Worth their weight in green!
In Metso’s lab they develop and test company products. Not just the ball valves that they’ve manufactured for over fifty years but also microprocessor valves and automated machines for the facility floor. They deal with PLCs, servos and HMI (Human Machine Interface). The students can program all of these and their knowledge really comes to play here. They also support manufacturing when there are issues on the shop floor and know how to troubleshoot and diagnose problems. Students are called upon for their input when the company makes equipment purchases.
Years ago, Metso moved some high volume production to a lower cost region, but learned that automation could equalize the cost difference. By investing in automated assembly and test equipment they were able to bring production back to the Massachusetts factory. Many of the “Green Machine” testing units on the floor were built by the students and used to assure that products meet customer specifications. These specialized machines are unique to Metso and the versions built by students cost half of what they would cost to purchase.
The best way to learn!
Mike Bouckaert, a recent Worcester Technical High School graduate was recommended for co-op at Metso during his senior year. He feels that his vocational education served him well. “Not only do you learn the academics, but you learn your shop which gives you more opportunities for the future.” says Mike. ” Working at Metso allows him to try new things and challenge his mind to solve problems. “When I first began (at Metso) everyone was ready to help me out and show me what to do.” he adds. “Like Joe Galvin who handles returns and mentors me on troubleshooting and Ed Foster who taught me the history of valves and all their uses.” Mike has been running tests in the metal lab trying to lap metal surface to metal surface in a ball valve with no leaks. He uses a computer simulation with enlarged images of the metal surfaces to check for variations in smoothness and inputs different variables searching for a solution. “It is a great challenge,” he says. “In this job I get to do so many different things involving chemistry, electronics and even thermal dynamics. It is never boring; no day is ever the same. I feel very lucky to have been chosen for co-op. This is definitely the best way to learn!”
“Manufacturers provide training, mentoring and internships or co-ops and end up with trained employees to fill their gaps in the future. We select the students and provide them with a very job-specific education and hands-on experiences. The program is great for the local economy, the community and our company, plus, it gets students working!” David Bayreuther