ROANOKE – The Gene Haas Foundation selected the School of Career and Corporate Training at Virginia Western Community College to receive a $10,000 grant in fall 2022. The grant provides scholarships for students to take the college’s courses in machining. This program provides training from the Fundamentals of Machining all the way to CNC Machining with both Mills and Lathes.
Machine operators and machinists make parts for an array of technology, such as pacemakers and cellphones, as well as planes and bridges. The Gene Haas Foundation’s primary goal is to build skills in the machining industry by providing scholarships for CNC (Computerized Numerical Control) machine technology students and certifications.
The Gene Haas Foundation was established in 1999, by Gene Haas, founder and owner of Haas Automation, Inc., to support the needs of the local community. The foundation later expanded its mission to include support for manufacturing training programs throughout North America and beyond.
The Gene Haas Foundation donates millions of dollars every year to manufacturing education and the community, with the goal of expanding the availability of high-quality manufacturing technology training worldwide.
“Combined with the state FastForward funding, this scholarship could help up to 16 students enter into Machining as a new career this year,” said Bryan Walke, course coordinator for the School of Career and Corporate Training. “We take pride in seeing how these skills lead to rewarding careers and impact our student’s futures.”
Paul Gillespie, an instructor in the machining program, first heard about the grant and followed through with the application process. This is the second grant that the Gene Haas Foundation has awarded Virginia Western.
Gillespie and fellow instructor Alan Bible teach Machining courses year-round. The Gene Haas Scholarship has provided funds for students in their Fundamentals, Milling, Turning and Advanced courses.
Workforce development is a key component of the machining program, Gillespie said. Each of the four courses offer students the opportunity to receive two or three credentials from the National Institute of Metalworking Skills (NIMS).
Virginia Western student Cross Yonce received a scholarship because of the Gene Haas Foundation award. “The scholarship has helped me by allowing me to take the Milling class in an attempt to further my career,” said Yonce, who completed Bible’s course in January. The machining program also has offered him a sense of community. “I enjoyed the people I got to meet and hang out with throughout the duration of the class.”
Machining falls in a category of a high-demand workforce skill. Gilliespie said the majority of his students are already employed – companies “send them to us for extra training.” This creates an environment where students “want to learn,” and often receive state funding. “They go back to their employers with their employers’ support.” About a third of the program’s students have no experience before starting in the Fundamentals course. “They get jobs right away,” Gillespie said.
The Gene Haas Scholarship has specifically helped some students who had moved from out of state and did not yet qualify for state programs such as FastForward or the G3 Scholarship.
Machining offers good starting pay and stable employment if you like mechanical things and working with your hands, Gillespie said. “Those who do, usually latch onto it and like it.”
The Machining Fundamentals I and II course started Feb. 13. Students can learn the skills major manufacturing employers are looking for and earn valuable credentials. The training takes just seven weeks, and the course is included in the VA Ready initiative, which can earn each student a credential achievement award of $1,000. To register, visit:
-The Salem Times-Register