Turning Ideas into Realities Through Modern Manufacturing

headshot of Suzette Murray
Suzette Murray

Designing. Brainstorming. Building. Innovating. Computing. Traveling. Working with a global team. Making a difference. Welcome to a career in modern manufacturing. 

As with other industries, manufacturing has become more technologically advanced in recent years and so requires a different employee skill set. I heard about these changing requirements firsthand at a National Council for Workforce Education conference I attended recently. There, manufacturing industry panelists stressed the need for workers with critical thinking and creative design skills, along with leadership and collaborative abilities. 

This next generation of manufacturers — versatile innovators capable of integrating creativity, design, prototyping and fabrication — can get started here at Waubonsee, where we've updated our curricula and equipment to better meet the needs of future employees and local employers. We offer courses in all major areas of manufacturing, including automation, computer-aided design (CAD), precision machining/CNC and welding. A new capstone course set to debut in the fall of 2014 will foster collaboration among faculty in these areas and allow students to see a class project all the way through from product design to CAD to production.

Thanks to a Department of Labor Trade Adjustment Assistance Community College and Career Training (TAACCCT) grant awarded to the Illinois Network for Advanced Manufacturing (INAM), we have been able to improve our machining lab with seven additional Haas CNC machines and upgraded manual equipment. We are also waiting for a robotic arm to arrive any day! In addition to this updated machining lab, the college's Sugar Grove Campus also features a metrology lab and a hydraulics/pneumatics lab. Plus, we give students the chance to practice on industry-standard software such as AutoCAD, Solidworks, Inventor and Mastercam. 

While the manufacturing courses and programs at Waubonsee provide a solid foundation, we encourage students to further improve and demonstrate their skills with industry certifications through organizations like the National Institute for Metalworking Skills (NIMS) or the Manufacturing Skills Standards Council (MSSC).  

Of course, before they can do any of this, students have to first get excited about and interested in the field of modern manufacturing. On Nov. 1, nearly 300 local high school students were introduced to the field at the seventh annual Manufacturing Career Awareness Event at Waubonsee's Sugar Grove Campus. Sponsored by the Valley Industrial Association, Aurora Economic Development Commission, River Valley Workforce Investment Board, the Valley Education to Employment System (VALEES) and Waubonsee, the event featured demonstrations and exhibits from 20 local manufacturers, with representatives available to answer students' questions about jobs in the industry. The students and manufacturers were also able to take a tour of Waubonsee's manufacturing labs and facilities. 

In the coming months, we look forward to hosting more events so that we may continue building relationships with employers and students while also sharing our excitement about our upgraded manufacturing programs and the wonderful career opportunities to which they can lead. 

Suzette Murray is the Dean for Business and Career Technologies at Waubonsee.