Manufacturing remains the No. 1 economic industry in New Hampshire, with workers earning an average annual salary of $75,000 a year. The Lakes Region, often thought of as a tourism destination, has a surprising level of high-tech manufacturing.
“Several area manufacturers make products for the aerospace, defense and/or medical industries,” says Carmen Lorentz, Belknap Economic Development Council executive director. “The jobs are highly technical and computer-based, and such jobs aren't going to be outsourced to other countries. The advanced manufacturing we have is not going anywhere.”
So how is today's manufacturing industry distancing itself from the long-standing stereotype of unsophisticated, dirty factory jobs? And how can the industry attract more students to present and future careers in manufacturing?
Huot Technical Center on the campus of Laconia High School is doing its part, offering students 12 curriculums that include an advanced manufacturing/engineering technology program.
“Our curriculums are available to students in grades 9-12 who attend Laconia and five other high schools in the region, with interested students bused to Laconia High for 90-minute technical course blocks during every school day,” says Scott Davis, Huot Technical Center director. “Early in the advanced manufacturing curriculum, we take students on field trips to local industries to show how clean and high-tech the companies are, and the wide variety of interesting career opportunities they offer.”
Huot Technical Center recently underwent a multimillion-dollar renovation that included the installation of new equipment purchased and donated by local manufacturers.
“We now have top computer lab equipment, a 3D prototype printer, and high-tech mills and lathes,” Davis says. “Students are learning all aspects of the manufacturing industry, including design, computer programming, prototyping and actually producing some products.”
The Huot Center also collaborates with Lakes Region Community College, which recently added a new advanced manufacturing lab of its own.
“It's exciting that a student can ultimately end up earning a two-year degree at LRCC and soon afterward be earning up to $75,000 in the manufacturing field,” says Don Brough, LRCC advanced manufacturing training manager.
LRCC also receives classroom ideas and input from the more than 20 manufacturers doing business in the Lakes Region, including companies such as Aavid Thermalloy, EPTAM Plastics, Freudenberg-NOK, Howard Precision, Milpower Source, Redwood Technologies, Titeflex Aerospace and Vitex Extrusion. Another area manufacturer is New Hampshire Ball Bearings, whose employees design and make precision bearing products for the aerospace industry.
“We are a high-tech, clean, invigorating, nimble company that is always looking for more skilled employees with technical backgrounds, who also have critical thinking and communications skills,” says Gary Groleau, NH Ball Bearings communications manager of labor relations and organizational development. “The time is right now to get all students thinking about the excellent advanced manufacturing opportunities that are available in the Lakes Region.”
Check out more on the business climate near Laconia, NH.