Polk State expands CNC technology & training through ACE grant

Posted on by Polk Newsroom

With the help of a $400,000 grant from America’s Cutting Edge (ACE), Polk State College’s Corporate College has the latest technology, can serve more students, and fill the need for more computer numeric control machine operators in the community.

The grant funding from ACE is being invested in equipment purchases, curriculum development, training, instruction costs, and more. According to its website, ACE is a national initiative that aims to restore the prominence of the machine sector in the U.S.

“It’s very exciting to bring the newer technologies directly to these students in real time,” Instructor James Gibbons said. “I’m certain we can bring several students up the bar for multi-axis manufacturing as a career.”

The latest technology

One of the grant’s highlights includes two new 5-axis mills with full axis control for the Computer Numerical Control (CNC) Machining Program. The additions make machining complex shapes easier with greater accuracy and a better surface finish.

“Polk State’s CNC training now can offer training on cutting edge technology that is rapidly progressing,” said Howard Drake, Director of Corporate College. “As employers upgrade to the 5-axis machines, our students will have foundational knowledge and practical hands-on training that will provide employers with a more well-rounded and valuable employee asset.”

The newest additions give the program five total machines. Through a separate grant, Corporate College recently acquired a 4-axis lathe – a machine that rotates a workpiece for cutting, sanding, drilling, and more.

“Being selected for the ACE grant has brought exciting new additions to Polk State College,” Drake said. “The machine shop is now fully equipped to offer our students the most current training solution available.”

A new pipeline

The funding for curriculum development will allow Polk State to send 72 students from four local career high school career academies through weeklong boot camps this summer and next at no cost to them. Students from Lake Wales High School Applied Engineering Career Academy, Mulberry High School Academy for Applied Technologies, Ridge Community High Construction Academy, and Candlelight Christian Academy attended the first boot camp in June. Two more camps will be offered in July.

“The potential pipeline for CNC machinists is expanded greatly through this grant. We are confident that students who complete the bootcamp will be positioned to make career decisions regarding CNC machine operations,” Drake noted. “Employers are excited about the potential influx of new machine operators.”

A proven success

The CNC Machining Program at Polk State Corporate College is a high-intensity, eight-week course that readies students for in-demand, high-paying careers. The program boasts greater than a 90% job placement rate.

“The results can, and have been, life changing for many people,” Gibbons said. “I often see our participants come from a tough life with very difficult conditions and then move into a good, steady job that blossoms into a career and all that comes with that. The career and job they want is simply there and available to find.”

Drake noted that many complete the program on a Friday and start their new job the following Monday. Polk State has more than a dozen local partners that often hire graduates, including many with U.S. Department of Defense contracts. The next eight-week program begins on Aug. 14. Interested individuals should contact Coordinator Sam Hale at shale@polk.edu or 863.669.4975.

“The students can start with the end goal in mind and as a result, they can recognize and understand the process that leads to the intended outcomes,” Drake added. “The sense of accomplishment and pride associated with completing the machining activity is very rewarding and provides real significance for the students.”