OptiPro Systems, a machine tool manufacturer and distributor in Ontario, New York, provided a Nakamura-Tome AS200L CNC lathe the Canandaigua, New York-based Finger Lakes Community College (FLCC) G.W. Lisk Co. advanced manufacturing machinist training program. Valued at more than $200,000, the lathe will help ensure students learn how to use the most up-to-date equipment.

“It’s tough to buy a machine just for training,” explains Dave Phillips, G.W. Lisk’s training manager. Modern machine tools are so sophisticated and expensive that taking them out of production for training can be cost-prohibitive. The Nakamura- Tome lathe “means more hands-on time on the machines for our students.”

Don Miller, technical sales engineer for OptiPro, says, “We have to be partners in this if we want to have well-trained workers. Everyone has to be a winner.”

The partnership Miller arranged between OptiPro and G.W. Lisk is an example of increasing cooperation within the advanced manufacturing sector as it strategizes for the coming retirement of the Baby Boom generation.

Scott Cummings, director of machining at G.W. Lisk, says about 20% of the company’s workforce will reach retirement age in the next five years, adding a challenge for an industry that is already having trouble finding skilled workers.

While there’s political talk about the decline of manufacturing, advanced manufacturing has quietly grown. G.W. Lisk has added more than 100 employees in the last seven years; OptiPro has added 50 employees during the same period, doubling its workforce. Advanced manufacturing has become too high-tech for people with no experience to learn on the job, and employers cannot afford errors that damage pricey equipment. G.W. Lisk’s leaders realized several years ago that they needed to do more to ensure a steady supply of skilled workers.

The company reached out to FLCC in in 2009 for help in establishing a formal, six-month training program. FLCC worked with G.W. Lisk to identify the knowledge and skills that entry-level workers needed: math, shop safety, and soft skills, such as the ability to meet deadlines and work as a team. FLCC focuses on outreach and administration of the program while Phillips handles the hands-on training.

“Community colleges cannot afford to buy all the high-tech equipment needed to train people for today’s advanced manufacturing environment, and manufacturers don’t have experience in setting up and operating formal education programs,” explains Marcy Lynch, director of workforce development for FLCC.

Since the first class graduated in March 2011, all students have had job offers prior to graduation.

OptiPro Systems


Finger Lakes Community College