District launches machining lab at Armwood

Machining technology lab at Armwood is not your father's shop class.
Instructor Michael Rendas poses with Armwood High students Deshawn Washington, Adam Bell and Ray Hutchins in the school's new machining technology lab. KARLA GIBSON   |   Special to the Times
Instructor Michael Rendas poses with Armwood High students Deshawn Washington, Adam Bell and Ray Hutchins in the school's new machining technology lab.KARLA GIBSON | Special to the Times
Published November 16 2016
Updated November 16 2016

SEFFNER — At a time when many jobs are going online and offshore, Armwood High School has brought back the old school shop class with a new hi-tech edge.

Teaming with the Manufacturing Alliance of Hillsborough County, Hillsborough Community College, CareerSource Tampa Bay and Hillsborough County, the school district launched a new in-school manufacturing program at Armwood last week. Officials described the "Machining Technology Lab" as cutting edge with the potential to impact the entire district.

The program aims to teach students who may not be considering traditional college and are planning to go directly into the workforce about machining technology and expose them to career opportunities in manufacturing.

The alliance notes that Hillsborough County manufacturing employees maintain an average salary of $52,000 and an expected increase in work should increase the number of jobs from 1,136 to 25,931.

"The computer controlled lathe and vertical machining center in this lab are a far cry from the machine shop tools of my youth," Hillsborough County Commissioner Stacy White said. "Training on this type of high precision equipment is critical to develop skills relevant to our modern workforce.

"Manufacturing is the bedrock of our economy and the cornerstone of our nation's ability to innovate and create new technologies that lead the world. There are quality careers for our youth in manufacturing, careers that will support families and allow people to reach their full potential."

Ray Hutchins, a junior, is beyond thrilled about the program. He hopes to join the Marines after graduation and is interested in a career in computerized 3D modeling.

"What I really am excited about is that you get to see what you create and see it be put into use," Hutchins said. "It is taking a dream and making it a reality."

Adam Bell, a sophomore who plays several positions on the varsity football team has his sights set on playing in college, but he also dreams of being an inventor.

"This is not just a class for me, it is a stepping stone to my future," Adam said. "I want to change the world one invention at a time."

Deshawn Washington, a senior center on the school's basketball team, is shooting to be an orthodontist.

"This is a great opportunity because I get to see how things, like braces, are made and what goes into the process," Deshawn said.

Michael Rendas, teaches Machining Tech. Originally from New Jersey, he has a vast background in manufacturing. As his last employer slowly moved all of the manufacturing oversees he came across the opportunity to teach machining skills at Armwood.

"I love it here. I really enjoy working with the students and being a part of developing skilled candidates for local work to boost our economy," Rendas said.

Ken Jones, Economic Development Manager with Hillsborough County, said the county received a grant and wanted to put it to the best use possible for the local economy.

"This provides top notch training in an area where there is a shortage of skilled workers," Jones said.

Contact Karla Gibson at hillsnews@tampabay.com.

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