The integrated machining engineering program at Clay High School has gone state-of-the art, thanks to a new acquisition called a CNC milling center.
CNC stands for “computerized numerical control.” A CNC unit is a machine tool programmed to perform automatically such routine operations as drilling, tapping, reaming, and boring. A CNC machining center such as Clay’s can produce a myriad of complex parts, to high tolerances, for all manner of devices, including artificial hips and knees.
“It’s a great teaching tool for our students,” said Antonio Spallino, who has run the machining engineering program at Clay for 19 years. “Employers are looking for workers with the skills to program and operate these.”
School officials unveiled the CNC milling center last week. The almost $65,000 unit was purchased with donations from local companies and a big discount from the vendor. The donations came to about $49,000, and the discount was worth $15,000.
Oregon school district officials are delighted with the acquisition, and the way it was achieved.
“This is a great example of what can be done when the schools and community work together,” Superintendent Michael Zalar said. “The upgrade in machine technology will ensure that our students are college and career-ready upon graduation. We are fortunate to have so many partners step up and support a project of this magnitude.”
The biggest donor was BP-Husky Refining LLC, which gave $30,000. The others were Hammill Manufacturing ($10,000), Ort Tool and Die Corp. ($5,000), Riverside Machining and Automation ($2,000), and Dugan Tool and Die ($2,000).
Clay had some pull with the vendor, Haas Factory Outlet Midwest, which helped the school realize the big discount. The firm’s sales manager, Timothy Taylor, is a graduate of the Clay program, as is Alberto Spallino, a company sales engineer who is the brother of Mr. Spallino.
Mr. Taylor said the unit Clay has is made in Oxnard, Calif., and sold around the world. Haas was the U.S. sales leader for such products, with about 35 percent of the domestic market. The biggest foreign markets for Haas are China and Russia.
“Our biggest competitor is the Japanese. The Germans are good too. The Chinese make a decent product, but don’t have the distribution network,” he explained.
Clay needed the CNC machine, he continued, “to educate the next generation of machinists. There’s a real skills gap in this country, and parents should not be afraid to have their students approach manufacturing as a career. There’s still a misperception that workshops are dirty, grimy places. They aren’t. What’s important is to get more students into manufacturing programs.”
Antonio Spallino said strong local demand for skilled machinists helps his program consistently achieve a 100 percent placement rate for its graduates, a figure confirmed by Mr. Zalar. Currently, the two-year program has 20 seniors and 16 juniors.
The unveiling event attracted Ike Zantner, a 1984 Clay graduate who went through the program and has his own company, Great Lakes Machine and Tool, in Curtice. He said he has a machine similar to Clay’s CNC machine and is in the process of buying another, bigger one. “It’s a good program,” he said of Clay’s. “I certainly benefited from it.”