ACE Celebrates 3000th Online Registrant

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ACE Celebrates 3000th Online Registrant

“I’m 34 years old, this is my first job in manufacturing, and I’m really excited about my future!” said Marcus Beamon of Denton, Texas. America’s Cutting Edge (ACE) is pleased to celebrate Marcus as the 3000th registrant for its free online machine training as a pathway toward a more fulfilling and prosperous career in manufacturing.

“I was a painter for a long time, and you never knew when your next job would be. Manufacturing offers constant work, and I like that,” said Marcus. He joined Mayday Manufacturing in April, doing deburring and a form of powder coating for about $15 an hour. Then, he heard about CNC machining. Mayday has five levels of machinists who make anywhere from $17 to more than $30 per hour. “I’ve liked it here so far, but I’m ready for new challenges,” added Marcus.

Mayday Manufacturing is a leading build-to-print manufacturer of aerospace bushings, pins, sleeves, and turned metal parts. For more than 50 years, Mayday has produced over 130,000 unique aircraft components, and their parts have been in nearly every military and commercial aircraft in the western world. Mayday is growing steadily to meet increasing customer demand, and the need to attract and train new talent is key to continued success. 

Craig Barhorst, Operations Manager for Mayday, saw ACE as a tool they could use to help their employees expand their skills and grow in their careers. “Marcus is the perfect example of someone who shows a desire to learn and is dedicated to a new start,” Craig said. “We often target recent high school graduates, but Marcus is a whole other demographic of people changing professions that we can work to attract. This is our first experience with the ACE training, but we’re enthusiastic about the possibilities.”

When Marcus’ supervisor mentioned the opportunity, he didn’t hesitate. “Sign me up!”

Incredible Growth of ACE

ACE is a national initiative to restore the prominence of the U.S. machine tools sector. The ACE training focuses on Computer Numerical Control (CNC) machining fundamentals but is geared towards anyone interested in manufacturing. Both the 6-hour online course and the 32-hour in-person training require no prior experience and are offered at no cost.

Since launching in December 2020, ACE online has attracted a diverse group of 3,000 registrants from all 50 states:

  • 69% are from Education
  • 31% are from Industry
  • 55% have no previous CNC experience
  • 54% attend 4-year colleges
  • 7% attend community colleges or trade schools
  • 9% attend high schools

“Whoever you are, wherever you are, there is a place for you in manufacturing, and ACE is a pathway for realizing your dreams,” said Adele Ratcliff, Director of the Department of Defense’s Industrial Base Analysis and Sustainment (IBAS) program, the core funding supporter for ACE. “This training can be a pathway to prosperity for you and your community while contributing to the economic security of our country.”

ACE online has been most popular in Tennessee and North Carolina but is quickly gaining ground in the Lone Star State. Texas A&M Engineering Experiment Station (TEES) and the University of North Texas (UNT) are two of the newest machine tool training centers, the model being used to scale up the ACE program nationwide. Together they are reaching out to a wide variety of populations to offer the ACE training and are getting great feedback from the defense manufacturing sector. Mayday Manufacturing and Safran are two defense contractors that are sending numerous employees to pursue both the online and in-person training. Texas is a particularly critical state because it is number one for defense contract spending at $71.2 billion annually and accounts for 14% of total U.S. defense spending.  

Hector Siller Carrillo, who leads the UNT ACE training, explains, “Our primary focus is workforce development. Dallas-Fort Worth is the fourth largest metropolitan area in the country, with more than 7 million residents and growing. We know industries are looking for talent, and ACE is an excellent training tool to cultivate curiosity.”

“This is how we bring manufacturing back to America — through collaboration and concentrated efforts to expose as many people as possible to the world of manufacturing,” said Joannie Harmon, Director of Workforce Development at the Institute for Advanced Composites Manufacturing Innovation (IACMI). Through an agreement with DoD’s IBAS, IACMI is managing the scale-up of ACE, using the curriculum developed by Dr. Tony Schmitz, professor at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville and Joint Faculty at Oak Ridge National Laboratory. “Our partners are deploying a national strategy at a local level, which in turn impacts their economy, community, and individual lives,” added Joannie.

What’s Next for Marcus?

The next step for Marcus and several of his coworkers will be the in-person ACE bootcamp offered a few miles down the road at UNT. Having that facility so close to Mayday Manufacturing will give their workforce an advantage to explore what machining is all about before launching into their 90-day apprenticeship. ACE offers hands-on training in all the fundamentals of CNC machining — including design, writing code, and understanding the influence of vibrations on product quality.

Starting in a new field can be intimidating, but Marcus is convinced ACE is that steppingstone to having not just a job but a career. Plus, he’s already recommending it to others. “I’m grateful for work that’s as guaranteed as it gets. I’m ready for whatever’s next.”

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