Manufacturing forum aims to discuss a future workforce

The Greater Colorado Springs Chamber and Economic Development Corp. will host its quarterly Pikes Peak Regional Manufacturing Consortium May 4.

The forum, which is directed at regional manufacturing companies and area educators, will be at Pikes Peak Community College’s south campus on S. Academy Boulevard, and has the theme “Developing a Skilled Workforce.”

In January, at the last manufacturing forum, Pikes Peak Community College and Pueblo Community College announced a partnership aimed at helping educate workers for the manufacturing community.

The issue of preparing a skilled workforce for the local manufacturing industry was raised last year by local manufacturers who worried that high schools have discontinued shop programs that might inspire students to choose the trades like mechanics or welding.

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

Lance Bolton, president of the PPCC, said he heard those concerns and wanted to help tailor education programs to meet the needs of region’s manufacturers.

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.

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.

The May forum will cover educational resources available to manufacturing employees at Pikes Peak and Pueblo Community Colleges and the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs. The event will also put manufacturers in touch with local high school educators and guidance counselors to discuss reinstating programs for future skilled workers.