WATERVLIET ARSENAL, N.Y. -- Nearly 100 U.S. manufacturing leaders and educators converged on the Watervliet Arsenal for two days this month to learn more about how a government-owned and --operated manufacturing center operates. What set these tours off as being different from previous tours is that these attendees have a strong background in manufacturing.

The tours were set up as part of the Haas Technical Education Center Conference that was conducted at the Hudson Valley Community College in Troy, N.Y., and the attendees represented: manufacturing-related companies such as the Sandvik Coromant Company from New Jersey to the local GE Global Research in Niskayuna, N.Y.; higher education institutions such as Arizona State University Polytechnic and Purdue University; and national and international manufacturing associations such as the Society of Manufacturing Engineers and the National Tooling and Machining Association.

Andrew J. Matonak, the president of Hudson Valley Community College and host for the conference, opened the "Growing Your Manufacturing Education Triangle" conference by saying that it has been hard to get students excited about manufacturing. Despite his assessment, Matonak then painted a picture of recent positive growth.

"Seven years ago, we had five students in the manufacturing program," Matonak said. "This coming school year we will have about 40 students, which maxed out our day and evening courses."

Matonak said that companies, such as the Watervliet Arsenal and General Electric, have help create the recent rise in student interest in manufacturing-related studies by coming through with the sponsorship for nearly 50 percent of this year's incoming freshmen class. When students know that they will have a job when they graduate, it is hard not to become excited.

John Zayhowski, the Arsenal's apprentice program supervisor and who was the action officer for the Arsenal's participation in this conference, said the return on the Arsenal's investment to support the four-day conference exceeded expectations.

"This was truly a great event for us because we rarely have an opportunity to showcase the Arsenal's manufacturing capabilities, as well as its nearly 200-year manufacturing history, to such a large and diverse group of people who have a manufacturing background," Zayhowski said.

And tying into the education theme of the conference, the Arsenal's involvement with Hudson Valley Community College transcends just the four days of the conference, Zayhowski said. The Arsenal has a nearly 10-year relationship with the community college to develop machinists for the future via an apprentice training program.

"We have a tremendous relationship with Hudson Valley," Zayhowski said. "Due to the extensive four years of classroom study and 8,000 hours of hands-on training, the Arsenal and Hudson Valley are able to turn out some of the best new machinists in the country."

During the two days of tours, Zayhowski put several of his apprentices in front of conference attendees to lead the tours or to explain a machining activity that they were performing. Due to the apprentices' vast knowledge of every Arsenal machining operation and their expertise on critical machining where tolerances they were working were measured in the thousandths of an inch, the apprentices truly delivered a powerful message that Arsenal machinists can machine anything from large caliber guns to something as small a quarter.

The Watervliet Arsenal's dedicated and highly-skilled workforce contributes to our national security by providing U.S. and foreign militaries the most advanced, high-tech, high-powered weaponry for cannon, howitzer, and mortar systems. The Arsenal is also DoD's sole manufacture of large caliber cannons, from 105mm to 155mm, as well as DoD's manufacture of choice for 60mm, 81mm, and 120mm mortar systems.

The Arsenal will celebrate its 200th year of continuous operation in July 2013.

Page last updated Fri August 3rd, 2012 at 07:50