'Machinists get to do cool stuff': Students attend COA Manufacturing Day

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Jack Price, a student in the computer-integrated machining program at College of The Albemarle, sits next to a computer numerical control machine used in the program at COA's Regional Aviation and Technical Training Center in Barco, Friday.


By Reggie Ponder
Staff Writer

Sunday, October 7, 2018

BARCO — Students in College of The Albemarle’s technical education programs range from recent high school graduates to career Coast Guard personnel — but they’re all finding an opportunity to grow in their chosen careers.

COA’s Regional Aviation and Technical Training Center hosted the college’s 5th annual Advanced Manufacturing Day on Friday, offering high school students from around the area an up-close look at both the community college’s technology programs and some of the career opportunities associated with those programs.

John Stolarczyk, who teaches computer aiding drafting and design, said career opportunities for students in the program include mechanical drafting, architectural drafting, planning and estimating, surveying, and civil engineering drafting. The technology is also used in cinematic animation, and one student in a previous year did an internship with Disney, he said.

Computer-aided drafting and design is a powerful technology with numerous applications in the real word, Stolarczyk said.

“The computer is doing all the work,” he said. “You just have to learn how to work with it.”

Classes fill up quickly, so students interested in the fall semester should go ahead and sign up next spring, he said.

Students also can take classes remotely by live video, Stolarczyk said.

Liam Kilroy, who graduated from Northeastern High School in 2017, said he previously studied welding. He’s now studying computer-integrated machining at the Regional Technical Training Center. He said he also plans to study aviation and would like to work at Coast Guard Base Elizabeth City.

Kilroy said he appreciates COA’s affordability and is learning a lot. In high school he took automotive, drafting and carpentry classes because he wanted to have a broad base of skills. 

A number of current students at Northeastern remember Kilroy from when he was a student at the high school. Tony Johnson, who teaches pre-engineering and related technical courses at Northeastern, said seeing Kilroy at the COA campus helped NHS students make the connection between what they’re learning now and what they could do as they continue their studies after high school.

Johnson said the Manufacturing Day event was a good opportunity for high school students to see what can be done at a more advanced level. It’s also a chance for students to meet with prospective employers, he said.

“Sometimes you’ve got to get that outside of the actual classroom,” Johnson said. “It ties everything together.”

Employers who participated in COA’s Advanced Manufacturing Day event included Sumitomo Drive Technologies, MiTek Industries Inc., Oceaneering, A.R.Cheson, EnviroServe, and the U.S. Coast Guard Aviation Logistics Center.

The Northeast Workforce Development Board also participated.

Michelle Waters, COA’s dean of business, industry and applied technologies as well as the Regional Aviation and Technical Training Center’s administrator, said about 210 high school students came through the facility Friday from Currituck, Camden, Pasquotank, Perquimans, Chowan and Dare counties. In addition, the event was open to members of the public interested in exploring a career change or upgrading their skills for their current job.

Jesse Todd, an aircraft mechanic with the Coast Guard, is studying computer-integrated machining at COA as a “post-career plan.” Todd has 11 years with the Coast Guard and said he plans to retire from the service. He has been stationed in Elizabeth City for three years.

After retirement from the Coast Guard he would like to work as a gunsmith or a component machinist, he said. Todd is especially interested in the manufacturing of aircraft components.

“I’m really fascinated by how they’re made in a factory before I go and put them on a plane,” he said.

David Chambers, who teachers computer-integrated machining at COA, said students can find jobs working on boats, tractors, heavy equipment, airplanes — essentially any kind of manufactured machine.

“The sky’s the limit,” Chambers said. “Machining is the base of manufacturing.”

Chambers said he encourages students to consider the cars or airplanes they are fascinated by and then to realize “all this cool stuff is born in a place like this.”

“Machinists get to do cool stuff,” he said.

Jack Price is already doing some of that cool stuff. A graduate of Currituck County High School, he’s in his first semester as a computer-integrated machining student. He said he hopes to get a job in aviation.

Price said there’s a lot of math in the program, which he enjoys. He said he heard about the program at COA, thought it sounded interested and decided to give it a try.

A number of COA students are already finding their training is paying off in their chosen careers.

Gene Williams, who teaches heating, ventilation and air conditioning, said B&M Contractors is paying student Corey Doleski’s tuition and has already offered him a job.

“I think that more companies should do that,” Williams said.

Doleski, who graduated this year from Pasquotank County High School, said he started working at B&M the Monday after he graduated and now is enjoying the HVAC program at COA.