WACTC receives state money for new CNC machine

Katie Anderson

The Western Area Career & Technology Center (WACTC) was approved for $112,262 in state funding to expand its machine shop instruction with a new computer numerical control (CNC) machine.

The funding was made available through the state’s Manufacturing Training-to-Career program, which assists companies with programs to train a potential workforce, according to a Friday news release.

“In an effort to ensure ongoing access to state-of-the-art equipment and training, this grant provides Western Area CTC a great opportunity to strengthen its existing programs through the purchase of a CNC machine and accessories that will increase training and employment opportunities for our students and enhance the needs of our community,” WACTC Executive Director Dennis McCarthy said in the release.

The new CNC machine will be shared by the center’s high school students and CareerLink adult trainees who work with both wood and metals. As part of the expanded curriculum, the students “will learn the set-up, maintenance, troubleshooting, and operation of the CNC machine and its application to their respective industry,” the release states.

McCarthy said in an interview that the school applied for the grant more than a year ago, but due to the COVID-19 pandemic, it was “taken off the table.”

“They just stopped issuing grants,” he said.

When the program opened up again, they had to rewrite the grant application.

The money they’ll receive will go toward the machine itself, which costs about $46,000, along with training on how to use it and consumable supplies for it, like metal, plastic and wood, McCarthy said. About 50 students in both carpentry and machine programs will have access to the CNC machine, he said.

“They’re both really needed skills in our area,” McCarthy said. “I think this will work out great for our students and give them a great opportunity. Our teachers are excited about it, too.”

According to Gov. Tom Wolf’s office, there’s a demand in Southwestern Pennsylvania for jobs in operating computer-controlled machines – a projected 3.9% job growth across the state. According to the release, this area has a “critical need for qualified manufacturing employees.”

“Our manufacturing industry has established itself as a major player contributing to Pennsylvania’s economy and is in need of qualified applicants to support its continued growth,” Wolf said in the news release. “Training-to-Career funding will back Western Area CTC’s commitment to providing an all-encompassing education to its students, preparing them to begin and grow in stable careers, and supporting local manufacturers with an available and skilled talent pool.”

The Training-to-Career program, launched in 2017, has invested more than $9 million to fund 48 projects.