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Shawnee: Manufacturing Strong

Education and industry have partnered to create a workforce to support more than 70 diverse manufacturers in the Shawnee area.


For more information visit these links:

Gordon Cooper Technology Center

Central Plastics

Shawnee, Oklahoma

Show Details

Show 1619: Shawnee: Manufacturing Strong
Air Date: May 8, 2016



Rob McClendon: And it’s in that global marketplace that many of Shawnee’s local manufacturers are thriving, thanks to a strong link between education and industry to create a globally competitive workforce. With more, here’s our Blane Singletary.

Blane Singletary: At Gordon Cooper Technology Center’s machining classroom, it’s all about making, not just gadgets and parts for them, but also making future engineering professionals.

Marty Lewis: Our job is to make sure that we’re a prime mover in providing workforce for our business and industry in the region, and we take that very seriously.

Blane: That’s Marty Lewis, superintendent of Gordon Cooper. He says that this engineering program is important, because engineering is such an important industry here.

Lewis: Very vibrant manufacturing within Shawnee and points beyond Shawnee – Seminole, Chandler, etc., a lot of manufacturing that’s going on there. Machining is one of our prime programs.

Blane: As these machines and instructors churn out and cultivate fresh, new talent, the economy of this region grows, too. And the numbers don’t lie.

Lewis: We turn out typically about 40 students annually to Tinker Air Force Base as new mechanics, and we’re also right now training about 60 Tinker workers and giving them the skills that they need to kind of move up the salary level.

Blane: Whether it’s aviation or any other kind of engineering, the programs at Gordon Cooper Tech can help students’ careers really take off.

Elliot Shuler: Having the skill allows you to be able to go out into the workforce and compete for jobs that just not anybody can go out and do.

Blane: Elliot Shuler teaches precision machining, which gives students the knowledge to operate conventional and computerized numerical control machines.

Shuler: Most places want a certificate saying that I’ve been through an accredited machining program, that I have credentials, that if I put this young man or young woman on a multimillion dollar machine, that I have the confidence that they’re gonna be able to produce the parts that I want produced in a good amount of time, with good quality and to be able to make me money in a manufacturing setting.

Blane: Part of how they keep their program effective is through their partnerships. They work with high schools in the area, of course, but they’ve also teamed up with grade schools to get STEM in the minds of kids at an early age. And then there’s arguably the most important piece of the puzzle: the manufacturing companies themselves. Again, Marty Lewis.

Lewis: We work closely with them. We make sure that the equipment that we have fits their needs. We make sure that the training that we’re providing fits their needs. Everything that we do caters to those industries and their need.

Blane: And that’s why when you step out of Gordon Cooper, and into one of those partnered companies, you might get a little feeling of deja vu. This is Central Plastics, a locally grown company that is now part of global manufacturing juggernaut, Georg Fischer. Bryan Lucas is the vice president.

Bryan Lucas: Central Plastics has been a part of the Shawnee community now for almost 60 years. Our primary products focus on the distribution of natural gas and the distribution of water.

Blane: Things have really been looking up for them in the past decade, mostly thanks to a continually strong housing market and the fact that a lot of America’s pipes are, well, getting old.

Lucas: The infrastructure in the United States is entering its first phases of replacement. We’re governed by the federal government, so it’s required to be changed out once it hits the end of its useful life. And so we’re in the process now of changing out all of the old infrastructure in the United States.

Blane: Those new, replacement pipes get built right here, and with demand being very high, they need a lot more hands on deck

Lucas: We run between five and 550 employees. Our primary focus is finding people that’s energetic and excited and wants to come into work and is interested in showing up at work every day.

Blane: And while it’s hard to attract hot, young talent from outside the area to this town of 30,000, that’s where tech centers like Gordon Cooper come in: taking in interested local students and getting them started right after graduation with local jobs, like the many at Central Plastics.

Lucas: We’re probably one of the most diverse manufacturing facilities in the region. We have just about every manufacturing operation that you can employ at this facility.

Blane: Through these talented instructors, these residents in this city of manufacturing can get to work. Again, Elliot Shuler.

Shuler: Nothing replaces hands-on learning. And we know what the manufacturers want, what they want their employees to have, and we replicate that. We help them to be able to get the process down correctly.

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