One constant burns brightest for Acme Machine & Welding since its founding in 1985: The pace of technological change increases daily, necessitating the niche provider of machine parts for the offshore oil and gas industry to adopt new strategies for training newcomers.
Acme joins other innovative small businesses across Louisiana by participating in internship programs at local technical and community colleges. In the programs, select students attend school while also gaining real-world experience. Acme’s interns come from the main campus of Northshore Technical Community College (NTCC) in Bogalusa, La.
“In the last 10 years, things have really changed in the machine business,” said Troy Schiro, Acme Machine & Welding vice president. “It used to be all manual labor, but today it’s primarily about skilled labor and CNC.”
Computer numerical control devices are highly automated and use computer-aided design and manufacturing operations to replace traditional hand-cutting, sawing and welding. The technology is advanced and students in school receive what amounts to basic training in CNC operation.
“We allow the student interns to work alongside our team members and gain valuable hands-on experience,” Schiro said. “Our fabrication shop is located right near the community college, so we work with their schedule to make sure they have time to learn at school and at work. When they graduate from NTCC, we hope that most will transition into a full-time job here at Acme.”
In addition to parts for the offshore industry, Acme produces a variety of custom-engineered products for manufacturers across South Louisiana and Mississippi.
Jesse Thomas of Franklinton, La., is in his last semester at NTCC and has been interning with Acme Machine & Welding for more than a year. After graduation, he hopes to stay on at the company but knows he has the skills to work anywhere.
“Through the internship program, I’ve received a lot of practical experience while also earning a paycheck,” Thomas said. “If I wasn’t at Acme, I’d probably have to support myself doing something totally unrelated to my field. This hands-on training has been a great supplement to my classwork.”
NTCC Chancellor William S. Wainwright is a big fan of companies like Acme that participate in the school’s internship program.
“Acme is an outstanding industry partner,” Wainwright said. “They truly understand the value in terms of the quality of training and the importance of communication to ensure that upon completion the student is work-ready. We value these partners who give our students the opportunity to complete their college program of study and in most cases have a foot in the door at the company upon graduation.”
All areas of study within NTCC’s Industrial Technologies Division have internship opportunities. The technical community college also utilizes an industrial advisory committee, which evaluates curriculum, technology and equipment, as well as the college’s vocational mission.
“We feel confident our combined classroom instruction and internship programs are both working together to graduate a highly skilled worker who meets industry expectations,” Wainwright said.