- Technology & Science
- Community Impact
- Swanson School of Engineering
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Roberto Rincon knows his machining class can change someone’s life. So much so that his own son took it, staying with him for six months while completing three classes. Now, his son is well along in his career — and Rincon has watched other former students go on to success, too.
“Those are the things that are very rewarding, keeping in touch with my students,” he said. “And they’re doing so well that I just love it.”
Rincon is a Pitt instructor who now teaches at the Swanson School of Engineering’s new Manufacturing Assistance Center at the University of Pittsburgh at Titusville, which aims to train local students to develop the regional workforce and fill key industry demands. The center opened its doors this semester with a ribbon-cutting ceremony on Sept. 22 and accepted its first class of six students, with plans to scale up in the coming months.
“The jobs are there, from Erie down to Meadville down to Franklin, and companies have difficulties finding individuals who have the skills to walk in and do an entry-level machinist job,” said David Fitz, interim executive director of the Pitt-Titusville Education and Training Hub. One local company told him they could hire 40 or 50 people right now to meet their needs, and demand across the region will only grow as many industry workers near retirement age, he added.
Pitt is poised to help fill those gaps. Rincon starts his basic machining course by teaching manual techniques like milling and grinding, then two more advanced classes cover skills in computer-assisted work and programming. Students also complete online modules, but their work with Rincon is all practical.
“This is a real machine shop — the easiest way to learn is hands-on,” Rincon said. “It’s a very intense program. If a person takes a course every day, they can be done in six to eight weeks.”
Rincon brings decades of experience in the manufacturing industry and teaching, most recently in the center’s prior location in the Homewood neighborhood of Pittsburgh. He moved up to Titusville along with the center to launch a new class in the manufacturing-rich region.
“We train people who have probably been displaced from their workforce and want to start a new trade,” he said. Thanks to scholarship funding, the vast majority of students complete the program at no cost.
The program has a 95% work placement rate, Rincon said, and graduates end up in well-paying jobs with good benefits. Filling those positions means a bigger ripple effect on the region, too, according to Fitz: “These industries will be able to meet the demand that’s placed upon them, which potentially could lead to even more employment in the region. When industry is doing well, you get investments back in the communities,” he said.
Years of work have gone into preparing for the new center, and the past six months has been a flurry of activity to get it up and running in time for the new class. Pitt partnered with Titusville’s Community Development Agencies to find a temporary location for the classes while a space on campus is under renovation.
“This has been no small feat but with the assistance of the Titusville Redevelopment Authority as well as the great work from the Pitt-Titusville staff and administration, I’m confident in our ability to help restore workforce opportunities to the region,” said Robert Beatty, the interim director of the Manufacturing Assistance Center.
And there’s more to come. Rincon plans to start offering more advanced classes starting next year, and the center will eventually move to a permanent home on the Pitt-Titusville campus along with new equipment. With that move will come even more opportunities to improve the lives of local workers and fill the needs of the region.
“This is a new, innovative type of way for Pitt to interact with the community, and it’s a testament to Pitt’s commitment to the community it serves,” Fitz said.
— Patrick Monahan