Thornton Academy has become the first high school in the country to partner with the National Tooling and Machining Association (NTMA) to offer an online training curriculum (NTMA-U) that promotes advanced workforce development. The Thornton Academy NTMA-U program provides motivated students the opportunity to earn a high school diploma concurrently with a competency certificate in Precision Machining. Tom Narciso, Instructor at Thornton Academy and Associate Professor at Southern Maine Community College, said, “The precision manufacturing industry is on the precipice of the long-awaited trend of diminishing supply of skilled labor. We need to put away the old stereotypes about shop class. This NTMA-U program provides another pathway for students to experience the academic rigor connected with our industry.” Thornton Academy students who have enrolled and advanced in this program have already begun working at the North Berwick, Maine plant of Pratt & Whitney, a United Technologies Corporation company that designs, manufactures, and services aircraft engines and auxiliary power units.
(Left to Right: Nick Rizeakos, Thomas Teague, Paul Jurgiewich)
Through Chamber of Commerce events, participation in the Maine International Trade Commission (MITC), and through building a job shadow/internship program, Thornton Academy has partnered with local businesses in a number of ways. Through those relationships, the Saco town academy discovered that precision machining companies have many more positions available than they have skilled workers to fill them. From this realization, the partnership with NTMA was created. "We're a private school with a public mission. We have an obligation to prepare students for highly academic careers, but we also have to look at the range of opportunities offered by our economy. There are not enough skilled people to fill important jobs. Not every student is going to go to college. There are hands-on technical trades that need people," said Headmaster Rene M. Menard.
Nationwide, over 800,000 machine jobs went unfilled last year. According to Marcel Bertrand, President of Arundel Machine Tool of Arundel, Maine, businesses like his are poised to grow, but can struggle without available, skilled labor. As father of a Thornton Academy student and husband to an alum, Bertrand decided to donate funds to support the introduction of the NTMA apprenticeship training into Thornton Academy's curriculum. His leadership and donation helped create a successful program.
Thornton Academy Associate Head Allan Young said, “For the 2014-15 school year – the second year of the program, Thornton Academy’s NTMA-U program has enrolled twenty students. The program covers everything from geometry and trigonometry to using CAD programs, safety practices, blueprint reading, CNC operations, advanced applied shop math, SPC, GD&T, and practice with dozens of precision machine tool devices. This apprenticeship program offers a skills-based certification curriculum to complete the NIMS written exam while gaining valuable industry-specific knowledge and earning 21 college credits.” Instructor Tom Narciso teaches two levels of students – Semester 1 and Semester 2 – in addition to teaching precision machining at Southern Maine Community College (SMCC). Junior students enrolled in the second year of the program will take part in a learning lab on Wednesday evenings at Southern Maine Community College. Sophomore students participating in the first year of the program will experience their laboratory at Arundel Tool and Machine.
Paul Jurgiewich, a junior at Thornton Academy, said, “I learned about a summer job machining at Pratt & Whitney by taking the NTMA precision machining class in school. Nick (Rizeakos), Tom (Teague), and I were chosen out of the 10 other students to take part as a summer intern at Pratt & Whitney. I was put on the micron grinder (3 axis machine) which I would load up, run the program, then measure the part afterwards on a CMM (coordinate measuring machine). I also ran a few other machines like the Huffman (5 axis), the wash, the micron (3 axis) the grit blaster, and the manual mill. The most challenging part of running the machines was learning them. Pratt & Whitney is an amazing business and getting my foot in the door at such a young age just blows people away. When I told people that I'm 16 years old and still in high school their mouths would drop. Nobody could believe it. It’s amazing.”
Steven Howe of Pratt & Whitney said, “Three Thornton Academy students - Nicholas Rizeakos, Paul Jurgiewich and Tom Teague - displayed outstanding performance throughout the summer. Their supervisors were amazed at their energetic attitude and desire to learn as much as they can. We started them on bench mechanic work, intending to give them several weeks of exposure to our parts and processes. However, within a couple of days they were operating machines! They all had perfect attendance. Paul and Tom continue working part time through the school year and we have agreed, with the stipulation that their grades do not suffer. School is their primary job now. “
Businesses interested in learning more about this program may contact Allan Young at 207-282-3361 X4435.