Barrington manufacturer donates $1.3 million in gear, training to ECC
Elgin Community College is getting $1.3 million in precision manufacturing equipment, software and faculty training for its growing Industrial Manufacturing Program that could lead to future job placement and apprenticeship opportunities for its students.
Barrington-based Swiss Automation Inc. has donated a seven-axis Swiss CNC machine -- worth $180,000 -- making ECC the only community college in the area with such equipment.
CNC, or computer numeric control, machines are used in prototyping and full production for cutting, carving, machining and milling in a variety of materials, including wood, plastics, metals, ceramic and foams. It can produce parts as small as one-tenth of an inch using a coded programmed instruction and without a manual operator.
"This is something that we couldn't have afforded," ECC President David Sam said. "It's great to have the opportunity to train students on this state-of-the-art equipment."
Swiss Automation -- one of the largest manufacturers of precision turned components for the medical, government and aerospace sectors in the United States -- delivered and installed the machine in ECC's manufacturing lab Wednesday. The company will begin training ECC faculty members ahead of the launch of a new, advanced CNC programmer certificate program this fall.
It's ECC's first major partnership with a manufacturing industry leader, said Umberto Tinajero, ECC coordinator of computer integrated manufacturing. It will lead to jobs and apprenticeship opportunities with Swiss Automation for students in the program, he said.
For the company, donating the machinery and training is an investment into its future workforce and the industry. Last year, it donated a similar machine to Cary-Grove High School.
"The main reason is to try to get the word out there that we need manufacturing here in the U.S.," said Marc Moran, vice president of operations. "It's going to help all manufacturers."
Moran said company officials thought of partnering with McHenry County College in Crystal Lake and Harper College in Palatine, but ECC's manufacturing program was a better fit.
"They are willing to tailor their program to our needs," he said.
Swiss Automation also hires 70 employees yearly for its two manufacturing facilities in Barrington and Cary.
"We're always looking for new employees," Moran said. "We have our own apprentice program that we have been doing for the last 25 years. We have about 14 apprentices at all times. Some of our employees now are taking classes (at ECC) to learn more."
Due to the growth of ECC's manufacturing program, more companies are lining up to partner with the college, said Cathy Taylor, ECC dean of sustainability, business and career technologies.
Demand for advanced CNC programmers also is increasing and the field offers greater job security and potential for earning good wages, she said.
"It's a pathway (program). It is a feeder into (becoming an) applications engineer, and those jobs pay on average about $40 an hour according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics," Taylor said. "Nationwide, it is projected to increase by 9% through 2026."
Last fall, ECC partnered with local businesses to launch apprenticeship programs in industrial maintenance and nursing assistance.
"We are going to utilize some of these donations of equipment to help us expand that so we can reach out to more employers in health care and computer cybersecurity," said Anne Hauca, ECC dean of workforce development and continuing education.
The college is launching a new cybersecurity certificate program this fall as a noncredit course. Once approved by the Illinois Community College Board, students will be able to get an associate degree with industry-recognized credentials in cybersecurity.