University of Pittsburgh
August 16, 1999


Contact:  412-624-4147

PITTSBURGH, August 17 -- State representative Frank Dermody,

(D-Oakmont) announced today that the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania is providing a $211,000 grant to the University of Pittsburgh's Manufacturing Assistance Center (MAC) to create a training program to address the state's shortage of precision grinders.

"It's important for the state and the region that we not allow a manpower shortage to erode the tremendous international reputation Western Pennsylvania has developed in the tool and die industry," said Rep. Dermody. "Because most of these jobs are with smaller employers who have difficulty providing the resources for on-the-job training, it is vital that we take a lead role in keeping this industry competitive."

"This grant enables us to provide a true, University-based service to the region's economy, to area manufacturers and to displaced workers," said Gerald Holder, dean of Pitt's School of Engineering. "We're grateful for the confidence Rep. Dermody and members of the Pennsylvania assembly showed in supporting this project."

The greater Pittsburgh area has been nicknamed "Carbide Valley" in the industry because of the number of tool and die shops in the area and the quality of the work produced.

Precision grinding, a critical skill in the tool and die industry, involves removing exact amounts of material into precise shapes, often with tolerances as small as 1/10,000 of an inch. The jobs are highly-skilled positions that pay between $30-60,000 a year for experienced machinists.

A study commissioned by the MAC through the Heinz Endowments found that more than 3,000 new jobs will be created locally over the next three years, an estimate supported by numbers from the Pennsylvania Department of Labor and Industry.

A recent article in Forbes Magazine said that nationally, more than 30,000 of these jobs go unfilled. Asian countries have targeted the tool and die industry by creating training facilities for their workers, and Dermody says that if the United States does not do the same, it risks losing these jobs forever.

The Precision Grinding Instructional Laboratory will accept its first students this fall, and at its peak should accommodate 80-120 students annually through three programs:

o The Intensive Precision Grinding Training Program, a 13-week program for beginners, which will include classes in blueprint reading and mathematics;

o The Hands-on Evening Classes for Tool and Die Apprentices, for students currently employed as apprentices by local companies;

o The Ten Week Advanced Manufacturing Training Program, an intensive program for dislocated workers that the MAC has operated for other manufacturing skills since 1997.

The MAC, which is in Rep. Dermody's district in the University of Pittsburgh's Applied Research Center (U-PARC) in Harmarville, serves as a resource for hundreds of manufacturers in the Greater Pittsburgh area, including more than a dozen in Rep. Dermody's district.

An initiative of the Department of Industrial Engineering in Pitt's School of Engineering, the MAC is a technology transfer center with a highly skilled staff and a state-of-the-art factory. It offers area manufacturers shared access to and hands-on training on advanced machine tools and computer aided manufacturing software, as well as technical assistance and research and development.

Since its inception in 1994, the MAC has completed more than 350 shared manufacturing/technical assistance projects and more than 2,000 person-days of

hands-on training.

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