Pikes Peak and Pueblo colleges partner to train manufacturing workforce

Under a new partnership, Colorado Springs manufacturers will have access to Pueblo Community College's mobile training labs.

Putting territorial issues aside, Pikes Peak Community College and Pueblo Community College announced a partnership aimed at helping educate workers for the the manufacturing community.

Lance Bolton, president of the PPCC, said he heard loud and clear the concerns of the Colorado Springs’ manufacturing community that there are not enough skilled workers in the areas of welding, machining and computer-assisted design programs.

“I heard the manufacturing industry in the Pikes Peak region say it needed help and needed it now, not down the road,” he said.

PPCC forged a partnership with Pueblo Community College to bring some of its skilled-labor training programs north. Pueblo will bring its mobile training labs – which are outfitted with the latest technology in electrical, manufacturing and welding systems — and PPCC will hire a part-time employee to work with Pueblo’s Work Force Center staff in organizing the training for Colorado Springs manufacturers.

Bolton announced the partnership Jan. 20 to a room of local manufacturers at a forum hosted by PPCC and the Colorado Springs Regional Economic Development Corp. It was the second forum hosted by the EDC in recent months specifically to discuss issues facing the manufacturing community.

Bolton called the college partnership unprecedented because community colleges are typically territorial about enrollment counts and state and federal resources. Bolton, who worked in the private sector with DuPont for 10 years, said he understands the need for community college programs to support local industry and grow education programs to fit industry’s needs.

With shrinking state education budgets and in an effort not to duplicate programs, it makes more sense to partner with Pueblo Community College and its Economic and Workforce Development Division, he said.

“We see this as a new precedence in government collaboration,” Bolton said.

Local manufacturers told Bolton in September that they have trouble finding welders and machinists. As the baby boomers who grew up in the trades ready to retire, the manufacturers in El Paso County – those that  employ about 127,000 people – are worried about their future workforce.

PPCC already has adjusted its curriculum to teach students to use metal processing equipment such as sheers, punches and angle rolls to meet local industry needs. This summer, the college added a new computer numerical control mill and lathe to ramp up its machining program.

There is a need for continued training. That’s where Pueblo Community College comes in. In the past decade, Pueblo Community College has built an impressive economic and workforce fevelopment Division. It’s the place where manufactures send their employees for training on heavy machinery and new technology.

Now, Colorado Springs employers can take advantage of Pueblo’s assets, said John Vukich dean of the Economic and Workforce Development Division at Pueblo Community College. The goal of the division is to provide services to help manufacturers remain competitive, stay in business, hire new people, expand operations and retain manufacturers in the community, he said.

Pueblo Community College has four 50-foot mobile training labs, which roll up to the doorstep of manufacturers who want to train or retrain their employees on tools such as mills and lathes. The labs can remain on-site for six months. The training courses  can be custom developed, Vukich said. PPC recently won a federal grant to build three more mobile labs.

“The key is we are trying to break down barriers,” he said. “It’s about the needs of the business community.”

Bob Smith, retired associate dean at PPCC, is back at the college as a consultant in the area of industrial and technical education. He called the partnership between the colleges excellent and a way for PPCC to close the gap between the industry needs and the educational programs.

“Our alliance with Pueblo Community College and their excellent workforce development department will afford us the ability to provide the manufacturing industry training and educational opportunities needed,” he said. “We are excited. This is groundbreaking.”

One Response to Pikes Peak and Pueblo colleges partner to train manufacturing workforce

  1. This is great news for manufacturers in El Paso County. In a tough economy, it’s hard to imagine having skilled manufacturing jobs going unfilled. Bravo to the two community colleges for banding together!

    Rosanne Gain
    January 23, 2012 at 1:13 pm