STEM Students Learn the CAD/CAM Life
MassBay Community College’s STEM Mentor Program is designed to facilitate an environment whereby STEM students can connect with people in their field of study to provide them with the necessary tools, beyond technical skills, to establish careers in their chosen areas of manufacturing. It’s a win-win for not only the students but also the mentor companies, like CNC Software, Inc., developers of Mastercam® CAD/CAM software, who learn more about what is being taught in STEM programs and can meet and mold new talent early on.
Pedro Sanchez, Jr., Post Department Manager, mentors AJ Valenti, who is completing his certification in Advanced Manufacturing Technologies at MassBay and is in the throes if figuring out which area of manufacturing is most attractive to him. “This is all very fresh,” he said. “I don’t know exactly which area I might get into; I’m interested in both production and design.” Sanchez is charged with helping him figure it all out.
“I say the best way you can get a handle on where you would like to go in the industry is to see everything that we do here – from development to the machine shop, from quality control to testing, to seeing the different machines not only live but also virtually.” Sanchez’s goal is to provide Valenti with a clear snapshot of the different places he can take his career beyond the fundamentals of machining.
“My main message to AJ is that this is a big tree with a lot of branches and there is no better way to see what’s ahead than knowing where to start.”
“I didn’t realize how many different branches and opportunities that were available to me until Pedro pointed them out,” said Valenti. Having Sanchez available to him throughout this process is invaluable to Valenti who views Sanchez as a sort of “coach” who can help him achieve his career goals when he hits a plateau or needs some direction.
One component of the manufacturing process that Valenti had not explored in depth was CAD/CAM software. During his initial tour, Valenti was invited to observe the design of a machine using Mastercam software, something he had not seen before while learning the basics of a standalone SolidWorks platform. Team members were only too happy to demonstrate the different machines and processes throughout the shop.
“Everybody was interested in what they were doing and they were more than happy to teach me step-by-step what they were doing and how they got to that step,” said Valenti. “It was pretty cool.”
Sanchez was a mentee himself and relishes the opportunity to provide someone else the guidance that helped him on his career path as well as to represent his employer. “We need to support the schools and colleges. I can give back to somebody, show them the ropes and then I can learn what the industry is doing out there so that I can be productive and proactive.” Sanchez has also spoken with a few of his fellow managers about joining the program and is planning to investigate additional mentoring programs in the area in an effort to bridge the gap between older employees and younger employees and to keep skilled guys on the shop floors as the Baby Boomers head into retirement. “There is no way to maintain teams without getting our hands dirty in starting to build these careers. We can be part of the solution.”
Sanchez is also exploring the possibility of introducing Mastercam to local colleges and STEM programs so that students can enter the workforce with a working knowledge of the software and to build relationships with students and educators alike.