TURNERS FALLS –– A year ago, Michael Sprague sat in the Franklin County Technical School awaiting a certificate for completing the rigorous advanced manufacturing job.
He had floated around different jobs but eventually went back to school, enrolling in the Advanced Manufacturing Pipeline — Computer Numerical Control (AMP-CNC) program that equips students from the valley to find highly skilled machining careers.
“My father had been bugging me since I was in high school,” Sprague said. “He thought that I’d be a great fit and I like to work with.”
So Sprague partook in the 300-hour, 15-week training program that begins with an interview process before it admits students.
A year later, Sprague came back to congratulate this year’s graduating class of 14, which includes the 100th all-time graduate from the state-funded program, now in its fifth year.
“I hate to admit it, but (my dad) was correct,” said Sprague, who now works at VSS Inc. in Greenfield developing support tubes for F-15 aircraft landing gear, using the skills and the base he developed in the program. “It really was a great fit.”
In the program’s first four years, it has a 93 percent graduation rate and an 84 percent job-placement rate.
The list of this year’s graduates came from across the region, mostly from Franklin County. They sat in the tech school’s cafeteria, many with their families sitting next to them, to listen to the stories like Sprague’s about where they could be in just a year from now.
“There’s nothing easy about this program and there’s nothing easy about learning today,” Michael Knapik, director of the Western Massachusetts Office of the Governor, said to the group of graduates gathered.
Knapik vouched for Governor Charlie Baker and local representative’s support for the program that tries to teach students the latest in machinery technology, from coding to shop work.
“It’s a tremendous career but it’s a continuous learning path,” said Andrew Baker, a member of the Franklin Hampshire Regional Employment Board. “Getting to that first job is really just the first step to getting to become a really highly skilled machinist.”
Jon Kallio, project manager of DOL-GPSTEM at Greenfield Community College and an instructor in the program, congratulated his students, noting many of them had hands-on experience before they entered the classroom and then continued to learn the newest machinery.
“It was an exciting group. Very gifted. And they have tremendous talents,” Kallio said.
The program is also helped to run by its partnership with Greenfield Community College.
“We’re so thrilled with the way it’s been supported,” said Patricia Crosby, executive director of the Franklin Hampshire Regional Employment Board.
Crosby also acknowledged the success of the students this year, but also called for women, as they have in the past, to join the program and the workforce, too.
The 14 students who graduated are: Jeff…