College Manufacturing Program Helps Offset Skills Deficit

Rowan-Cabarrus Community College in Salisbury, North Carolina, was established in 1963 in response to community and economic development needs. Today, the college—along with fellow North Carolina colleges and universities—is playing a crucial role in addressing a statewide skilled labor shortage.

According to Raleigh-based myFutureNC Commission, a commission focused on educational attainment, 50 percent of North Carolina employers are unable to hire needed workers due to lack of employable skills, technical skills, and education.

Rowan Cabarrus finished parts

Despite the state’s explosive economic and population growth, its pool of qualified laborers remains stagnant. By 2020, 67 percent of North Carolina jobs will require a post-secondary degree or quality credentials. Currently, only 49 percent of North Carolinians between the ages of 25 and 44 meet these requirements. To close the gap, myFutureNC set a goal to ensure that two million North Carolinians, ages 25 to 44, receive high-quality, post-secondary degrees or credentials by 2030.

Rowan-Cabarrus Community College is doing its part to address the labor crisis. Jason Hill, instructor of Computer Integrated Machining for Rowan-Cabarrus, spearheads a curriculum that encompasses CNC and CAM technology. To tie this curriculum together and equip students with powerful CAD/CAM software, Rowan-Cabarrus invested in Mastercam software for its classrooms.

Rowan Cabarrus teacher in classroom

“You can buy different software packages, but you won’t get the Mastercam family—there’s always somebody to help you.”
—Jason Hill, Instructor of Computer Integrated Machining, Rowan-Cabarrus Community College, Salisbury, NC

Hill emphasizes design for manufacturing, especially in his capstone class in which students design and manufacture engines. They redesign existing engines in SOLIDWORKS® and program toolpaths in Mastercam.

You can read more about these efforts in a Salisbury Post article here: Rowan-Cabarrus Addressing Skilled Labor Shortage.

At the time of writing, Hill’s students were producing engine cylinders. A 5-axis part that was designed in Mastercam, each cylinder measures 21” x 8” x 3”—the biggest part that the students could fit on the machine. The design is based on a part recovered from the wreck of the USS Monitor, a famous Civil War-era ironclad ship that sank off the coast of North Carolina.

Rowan Cabarrus instructor and student watching part in CNC machine

Mastercam’s Dynamic Motion technology is a prime focus in Hill’s class. Compared to a traditional cutting toolpath that uses only the nose of the tool, Dynamic Motion uses the full flute length for more consistent tool wear and extended tool life. And it’s easy to teach, said Hill. Students grasp the technology and enjoy seeing chips fly.

“Everybody loves watching Dynamic Motion because it throws chips everywhere,” he said. “It’s exciting, especially to people who’ve never seen it before. Students understand how to use the whole tool to rough the part out—it’s not just material removal.”

One aspect of Mastercam that the class appreciates is the variety of available toolpaths, specifically 3D HST Hybrid toolpaths that maintain Z-level cuts in steep areas and fill in shallow areas with scallop motion. Combining Waterline (constant Z) and Scallop motion at the same Z level means the entire part is cut.

As North Carolina educational institutions and businesses band together to combat the statewide skilled-labor shortage, Rowan-Cabarrus Community College Computer Integrated Machining Technology program instructors will do their part to prepare students for successful manufacturing careers.

For more on this topic, you can read an article by Jason Hill on SME’s website: Change the Culture, Fill the Skills Gap in which he shares his perspective for educators, students, and industry workers trying to improve opportunities in manufacturing across the board.