FRCC Answers the Call for New Manufacturing Talent in Northern Colorado

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Photo by Kenny Luo on Unsplash

Written by Karen Corliss

An information session for prospective students will be held on July 11th for the advanced manufacturing programs at the new Center for Integrated Manufacturing at Front Range Community College (FRCC) at their Longmont campus.

The advanced manufacturing programming at FRCC in Longmont has grown exponentially since its inception in 2013 with the initial help of a grant from the U.S. Department of Labor followed by support from the National Science Foundation.

Starting in a small space at St. Vrain’s Career Development Center (CDC), FRCC continues the relationship with the CDC by providing a pathway for high school students interested in manufacturing careers.

The CDC in Longmont opened in the 1970s and is one of eight Career and Technical Education Centers (CTE) in the state.  “[St Vrain’s] CDC is a recognized FRCC site, which means we can offer more concurrent credit moving forward,” advises Deniece Cook, principal and CTE director.

Cook also notes that there has always been a need for skilled trades education, “But in the past 5 years, there has been a need identified statewide for more skilled trades employees, as the current workforce enters retirement.”

George Newman, program director for the Advanced Manufacturing Program at FRCC, agrees. 

In 2016, discussions ramped up on the sustainability of the manufacturing programming at Front Range Community College. Newman described, since inception, the advanced manufacturing programming as “so successful and such an important part of the community [that] FRCC had no choice but to continue the program.” 

As new funding was sought, FRCC turned to the manufacturing industry and academic community for help and implemented a visioning and strategic planning effort resulting in two additional Associates of Applied Science programs matching the local industry needs.

Concurrently, analyzing data in Northern Colorado, FRCC found the corridor from Longmont, south to Gunbarrel and east to Broomfield shows the highest quantity of manufacturing businesses of 25 employees or greater. This concentration of manufacturing businesses led FRCC to choose the Boulder County Campus in Longmont as host for the new Center for Integrated Manufacturing. This location statistically supports the maximum number of potential students having career aspirations and employment opportunities with local manufacturers.

In addition to the Precision Machining program already established, 2-year programs for Automation & Engineering Technology and Electronics Engineering Technology will be added this August. Each program is structured where the student receives a 1-year certificate in the first year of schooling preparing them for internships, part-time, or full-time jobs while completing the second year of course work.

In further support of the local area manufacturers and research and development companies, a fourth program was also added at the request of the Colorado Photonics Industry Association. A 1-year certificate in Optics Technology was started in January 2019. “There are four national hubs for optics and photonics and Boulder County happens to be one,” notes Newman.   

When asked how FRCC fits into the overall education pipeline for creating new manufacturing talent in Boulder County, Newman cites a long list of Longmont and surrounding area associations, schools and programs that also support building manufacturing talent in addition to FRCC:

St. Vrain School District and STEM schoolsGrades K-12
NoCo Manufacturing Partnership and the Manufacturing
ROCKS programs offering factory tours for middle school
students every Fall
Grades 7-8
TinkerMill, a local Longmont Makerspace offering
memberships and access to tools
Ages 16-18+
Career Development Center including the new
Manufacturing Academy starting this Fall offering
co-enrolled classes for high school students in
industry-specific courses in Electronics, Optics, Machining,
and Welding
Grades 9–12
FRCC – Center for Integrated Manufacturing, offering
industry level instruction
College level
Industry Internships
Industry Apprenticeships (CareerWise Colorado)
Industry Career Part time jobs
Industry Career Full time jobs
Ages 16-18+

Front Range Community College currently offers four programs in manufacturing training specifically designed to meet current and future industry needs. The grand opening for the 27,000 square foot Center of Integrated Manufacturing is August 1st. Enrollment is open now through August 15th with classes starting August 19th.

More information on programs and enrollment can be found here:

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