ST. MARYS — Elk County business leaders are coming together to sustain the thriving powdered metal industry and its future.
Northern Pennsylvania Regional College Workforce Development will offer an “Introduction to Powder Metallurgy, Part I” course Oct. 15-Dec. 17 at the Community Education Center of Elk and Cameron Counties in downtown St. Marys.
The 40-hour, two-part course is designed to provide an overview of the industry and all its aspects, offering education from the “beginning to end product,” production, starting with raw material of metal powder, knowledge of machines, including molding presses and furnaces, sintering safety aspects and more.
The course, part of an introductory series, will provide instruction from seasoned powder metal businessmen in the area, said Northern Pennsylvania Regional College Workforce Development specialist Terry Hinton.
Part two of the course will be offered next year, and then hopefully, an “advanced level” course in the future, Hinton says.
“This is a way to keep our powder metal industry flourishing, so that people will come here and stay here,” she said.
The second part of the course will address the inspection process, tooling materials and designs, elements of automation and robotics and career positions in powdered metal.
The Elk and Cameron county area is a huge hub for the powder metal industry, Hinton said.
Eric Wolfe, president of Horizon Technology Inc., a small St. Marys business and powdered metal parts manufacturer, will be the course’s opening instructor.
Wolfe is also a MEEA – Manufacturing, Education & Employment Advancement, Inc. – member, a nonprofit organization aiming to support advancement of education and manufacturing employment in the Elk County and surrounding region.
MEEA has become “the voice of the manufacturer,” Wolfe says.
“We’ve experienced significant growth in the powder metal industry, but our challenge is getting enough people to work,” he said.
Put simply, there are not enough people to take the place of the retirees the area will see in the coming years, Wolfe said.
“We need to be planning for ways to attract people into the region, offset the population decline and decline in the availability of a workforce,” he said.
Organizations like MEEA and NPRC are committed to seeing this industry continue to grow in Elk County, Wolfe says.
Part of NPRC’s mission, Hinton adds, is to make valuable courses like these affordable. This course can be for those wishing to enter a career in the powdered metal industry, or those who already work in it.
Instructor and Advantage Metal Powders, Inc. owner Jason Gabler said the course is a great “stepping stone” for employees aiming to move up the ladder and advance their careers.
This course is an extension of a three-day manufacturing course already offered in State College by the Metal Powder Industries Federation (MPIF), Hinton said. Penn State DuBois also offers die-setter training and engineering technology programs.
The goal is not to compete with these courses, though, Wolfe said, but to compliment them. This can also benefit students who wish to pursue an engineering degree.
These instructors will keep the course exciting, informative, scientific and knowledgeable, Hinton says.
“It’s very important we have experts in all of the units,” she said.
Gabler will be teaching a large majority of the class, going over aspects like specification of materials, properties of powder, compaction, chemistry and others.