AUBURN — Central Maine Community College has been awarded a major grant of $900,000 from the National Science Foundation, Dean of Public Affairs Roger Philippon said.

The three-year Regional Advanced Machining Partnership grant will pay for the college to develop a new advanced machining program to address the pressing needs for highly skilled advanced machining workers.

“We’re really excited,” Philippon said. “We already have a machine program with a strong reputation.” The new certificate program will include six courses on advanced machining.

The program will offer more than the existing two-year degree program and will be for graduates of the two-year machine program and those in the workforce looking to advance their skills, Philippon said.

The full program likely won’t be offered to students until the fall of 2015, but some of the six courses will be available next year, Philippon said. The cost of the courses will be the same as other CMCC classes.

CMCC Dean of Corporate and Community Services Diane Dostie said there’s a critical need for advanced machinery skills in the workforce.

While manufacturing in Maine has declined, it’s still strong; remaining manufacturing jobs in Maine are high-paying and mostly for highly skilled workers, Philippon said. “For Maine manufacturing to remain competitive, we need more advanced skills.”

Machinists make parts for machines of all kinds, “parts that have to be made with exacting specifications,” Philippon said. “There are machinists who make toys, weapons, molds, bicycle parts, automotive parts. Machinists are the ones who make machine parts and repair machine parts.”

CMCC President Scott Knapp said of the nation’s 1,300 community colleges, “CMCC was selected to lead the RAMP project.”

And if voters approve Question 5 on the Nov. 5 ballot, CMCC and the other Maine colleges will be in an even stronger position to increase services to area businesses and manufacturing jobs, improving the local job market, Knapp said.

Question 5 asks voters to approve a $15.5 million bond to upgrade buildings, classrooms and laboratories on Maine Community College System campuses, allowing students more access to health care, precision machining, information technology, criminal justice and other programs.

In addition to teaching, CMCC will offer workshops for machining instructors throughout the United States and provide them with the curriculum.

As the lead institution in the project, CMCC has developed partnerships with community colleges, universities, industry and government agencies and other advanced technology centers to create a group of experts who will help create the program.

The partners include Springfield Technical Community College, the Connecticut College of Technology/Regional Center for Next Generation Manufacturing, Keene State College, the RapidTech Center at Saddleback College in California and the Manufacturers Association of Maine.

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