Minnesotans have long celebrated the exciting field of manufacturing during the month of October: Manufacturing Month. At Central Lakes College, we celebrate our students, faculty, staff and partners in this vital career sector every day.

We are deeply committed to the field because it’s critically important to our community. We have strong, vibrant manufacturing companies in the region, many of which partner with Central Lakes College to ensure our graduates enter the workforce ready to thrive, with the most advanced skills and knowledge available.

Manufacturing’s importance goes beyond our region. In fact, it’s the second largest sector in the state, accounting for about 14% of GDP.

At CLC, our manufacturing programs include Robotics/Automated Systems Technology, Machine Tool Technology and Welding and Fabrication Technology. Each offers hands-on experiences to prepare students for terrific careers. As always, the special part of our programs are the people -- the faculty and staff working hard to provide students with hands-on skills and workplace readiness; our students who inspire us every day, and our partners, without whom, none of this would be possible. Each of the programs is truly unique.

Related: CLC Connection: What makes Central Lakes College different

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In Robotics, we focus on the integration of automation into production systems. While many other schools focus solely on programing a robot, we know the future goes beyond that and teach automation of a whole system.

Our Robotics Program features current robot systems and automation equipment found in advanced manufacturing. Because of our partnerships with two of the world’s leading robotic manufacturers, our students are able to train on systems found in the industry.

CLC students also get tremendous hands-on experiences in our three large robotics laboratories, and then in the field at an internship with one of our partner businesses. Most of our students are employed before they even graduate from the program. Of all the unique things our students do in class, one of my favorite activities is the unveiling of student group projects. The students design, program, troubleshoot and build everything from toolboxes to skateboards. To hear them talk about how they worked through the challenges of the project is simply amazing.

Related: CLC Connection: Partnerships in agriculture make our communities grow

Machine Tool Technology students learn the whole gamut of the world of machine tool, including hand tools, lathes and mills, computer-aided-drafting and design software, power machinery and computerized equipment. Our more advanced curriculum includes geometric tolerancing, advanced computer aided design and manufacturing, and advanced computer numerical control milling and turning operations.

Students learn in a state-of-the-art shop, gaining hands-on, practical experience. When they complete the program, students can step into any machine tool job in Minnesota and beyond. This program, like many others, is always changing to meet the needs of industry. For example, this semester our faculty are adapting the program based on the feedback of business leaders and advisory committee members. The new revision will allow students to specialize in one particular area of this vast field, enter the job market more quickly, and when they’re ready to build more skills, to return CLC to add another specialization.

You’ve probably seen the work of our Welding and Fabrication students around the community. They created bike racks for the city of Brainerd (including the Paul Bunyan and Babe rack located downtown), the Crow Wing County Fair sign, and the Timberlake Hotel sign in Staples. Community and partnerships are vital to each of our programs. The Welding program actively seeks opportunities for our students to work with community leaders and put their creativity and skills to work in meaningful ways.

Local welding and manufacturing companies partner with our program, donating materials for our students to gain that hands-on experience that is so vital. Once our students graduate, they have the tools and knowledge needed to be successful, with many opportunities for advancement.

Like in many fields, the myths surrounding manufacturing are very different from reality. When people envision a career in manufacturing, they often think of the stereotypical dark, dirty buildings filled with low technology and repetitive work. It’s truly the opposite! Local manufacturing companies offer engaging, high technology, problem-solving careers with exciting opportunities for advancement. Employees work in clean, bright spaces and are proud to build outstanding products, right in our backyard. The careers associated with our programs are just as bright and promising.

Wages are also above average. Locally, manufacturing jobs pay 24% higher than the average job wage. It is a field where you can rest assured you will have a great job right here in Minnesota with amazing companies. Or, students can take what they learn here and travel across the nation and world to an incredible manufacturing career.

Whatever manufacturing route you choose, CLC is here to help you get there. I encourage you to check out our website, set up a visit, or chat with one of our advisors. Happy Manufacturing Month from CLC!