Bridging the Skills Gap @ Long Beach City College
One topic I’ve briefly touched on in the past is the “skills gap” that exists within the manufacturing sector of the American workforce. Essentially, this gap is a shortage of industrial-trained workers between baby boomers and the younger, millennial/Gen Z generation. This gap is comprised of highly technical jobs such as engineers, machinists, quality control, and a variety of other industrial roles. The question at play for the next few decades is simply: “what happens when the older generations retire without adequate training of the younger generations?” In more recent years there hasn’t been a huge push for trade jobs, or any promotion of a 2 year degree/certificate. Even if you have awareness of these high paying, in-demand jobs...where do you start?
Long Beach City College of Trades & Industrial Technologies helps to bridge the gap between technical knowledge and tangible/application-based skill sets. The department has found new spark with programs beginning to resurface every year. “We’re seeing a huge spike in demand for these types of metalworking programs from the local manufacturing industries in Los Angeles,” explained Damon Skinner, Instructor at the College. Places like the Port of Long Beach, Boeing, SpaceX, and other manufacturers are in desperate need of young, engineering-oriented individuals that can adapt to the technology that’s tied into a once manual, laborious environment.
In addition to CAD, CNC Machining, Blacksmithing, and other industrial courses, Damon hosts the Welding & Fabrication club, an after school program offered at LBCC. The club’s aim is to further extend the knowledge of applications and creativity in combination with these diverse metalworking technologies. All of the college’s bending, cutting, forming, and CNC fabrication tools are to the student’s disposal to make...basically anything. Outside of the student’s normal course time, they work on small projects like these fire pits (see below) &
shephad's poles (see above) to fund the club’s activities. “This club has actually been around since the 80’s,” says Damon, at a time where trade-skills were more widely taught at the college. “We are receiving a lot of support to expand and broaden our industrial/manufacturing programs from local industries that have a huge need for skilled labor.”
Click on this tool box (below) to see how it was made!
Pre-Degree Classes - For high school students about to move into college, LBCC offers a unique program (E-Tech) allowing them to gain college credits. “We offer 4 intro units for students looking to enter into the metal fabrication school before they finish high school. If they do well in those courses they can come to LBCC with their AS already half way completed,” said Damon. The beauty of a 2 year (AS) or trade certificate is that it's 1/4 to 1/20 the price of a typical 4 year degree, and takes half the time to complete. Not only can students get a jump start on their core classes, but they’re also open to taking apprenticeships, journeyman programs, and other work-study collaborations with a number of large manufacturers in the greater Los Angeles area. Below are some of the core technologies you can find at LBCC’s 2 year old, state of the art facility:
CNC Machining- In addition to CAD/CAM courses, the school of Fabrication offers CNC Machining from a variety of Haas Milling and Turning centers. During my visit, Damon showed me the Titans of CNC: Academy “Titan Building Blocks” they were teaching to enrollees in their Advanced Manufacturing CNC Machining courses.
Plasma Cutting- Reference the video to the left to see their plasma cutter in action! Students use this machine to begin their sheet metal fabrication process. For custom shapes to be cut fairly accurately out of virtually any size, this machine will get the job done!
Welding- Mechanical Design (Drafting) classes walk students through the drafting process, much like we did in my last blog post; My First 3D Printed Part. From there, students are also taught Intro to Welding for arc (SMAW), tig (GTAW), and oxy-fuel welding. Once the student has had a taste of the different fabrication technologies that are out there, they have the option to choose which one they want to continue their educational path with.
Fabrication-Along with welding and design, a student can expect other various classes using CNC punch-press machines, CNC bending/folding machines, as well as brake sheers, and more. There is also a number of manual machinery such as: brakes, presses, riveting tools, and other forming/fabrication machines.
Forging/Casting - These oldened, hand formed skillsets take on a new light with their integration into the LBCC curriculum. One thing I found unique about their approach was the inclusion of 3D Printing into the casting side of things. With “casting wax” available on a wide variety of printers the maker is able to print a model that can then later have molten metal poured into the mold to product an end-use/one-piece part you can see
in the picture to the left. Many foundries, especially in the jewelry business, are rethinking their process and implementing 3D Printing for a much more customizable technology that drastically reduces lead times. Aside from 3DP, the college hosts other “fire pit fabrication” technologies like sand casting, check at the top of the page to see!
3D Printing - One thing I was excited to see when visiting the shop was a wide range of 3D printing technologies that were being utilized in a number of applications. Whether it was an industrial-grade Stratasys FDM printer, a fine detailed SLA printer from Formlabs, or a simple desktop unit...you could tell there was a strong backing with Additive. “Our CAD classes integrate 3D Printing with all of their classes,” Damon explained. “They apply their knowledge for design into practical manufacturing for both concept/prototype and end-use/low volume manufacturing.”
Job Placement- Something unique to LBCC’s administrative approach to trades is their assistance with job placement for their students throughout their time at the college. Every year Damon and his crew are reaching out to local industrial companies to arrange tours of their facilities. “This is a great opportunity for our students to see their classes be applied in real world scenarios at companies of massive scale.” Getting the student's in front of these big companies is important from the start of things. It's not uncommon for student's to have jobs lined up well before graduation!
By 2022, Damon expects the industrial arts school to expand to another building in the center of campus to broaden the diversity of classes for their students. “We are a staff of 3 now, but that will likely increase once the school starts to expand. Industries everywhere are finally waking up to the fact that they have a critical need for skilled people to further the innovation and growth of their organization(s).” There has also been an influx of new machinery grants/donations that manufacturer’s have provided to the college helping to revamp the metal fabrication program. This includes a Trumph CNC(see below)
punch/press machine, a new plasma cutter, some new 3D Printers, as well as various metrology/quality inspection equipment. An expansion of CNC machining will also be something to expect in the future for the college.
If you have a technical college, makerspace, school project, or shop of any kind...what kind of work do you do?
Special thanks to Long Beach Business Journal for them allowing me to use their picture for my cover photo!