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$3M Grant For College Is Part Of Response To The Precision Manufacturing Worker Shortage

Story By:
Paul Miller | Director of Strategic Communications and Community Relations

Keene State College is set to receive Congressionally Directed Funds to expand capacity for precision manufacturing training and education.

The $3 million grant, contained in the Omnibus Appropriations Act of 2024 and secured by U.S. Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, D-N.H., is designated for programs focused on ultra-precision manufacturing, optics, and thin-film coatings.

Shaheen secured more than $100 million in Congressionally Directed Spending for state projects. Among several priorities the senator championed and secured resources to help address are the childcare crisis, housing shortage, a wage hike for service members, clean water, transportation, and mental health education.

The legislation has been signed into law by President Joe Biden.

Within 100 miles of Keene State, several businesses thrive in diamond-turning machining, thin films, specialty glass, and advanced optics. The funds will enable the college to offer additional courses for college credit, non-credit training, employer-based training, micro-credentials, and interdisciplinary applied research in these priority areas.

“Because of the specialized nature of this education and training and the emerging innovation of regional employers, we require broader investment to extend beyond our current curriculum offerings,” Dr. Jim Kraly, the college’s associate dean for academic program innovation, said. “The regional precision manufacturing and optics ecosystem is growing faster than it can attract skilled talent. Now we can do more to help build a deeper pipeline to meet these businesses’ needs and better serve our current and future students.”

This market need is not looming, it’s here, Kraly said. “These funds could not have come at a better time, so we are grateful for Senator Shaheen’s understanding of that and her continued support for the college and the businesses in this part of the state.”

The highest level of what a college should try to do is to find a natural path where its capacity aligns with and meets important industry needs, Keene State President Dr. Melinda Treadwell said, noting that the institution can now invest in more specialized equipment, classroom improvements, and program and curricular development.

“Sustained economic growth at home and in New Hampshire is at stake because it depends on these major precision companies being able to attract a high-quality workforce,” she said. “We don’t want this region to lose businesses, we want to give them every reason to stay, and now we can play a more meaningful role in making that happen.”

Keene State offers a one-of-a-kind integrative degree in Sustainable Product Design & Innovation. The major includes, among other things, combining industrial design, project management, and manufacturing engineering technologies. Students can also take classes with optical applications and earn a micro-credential in that discipline.

“The network of precision optics in our backyard is unique and offers many exciting career opportunities,” Kraly said. “Our programming feeds the workforce pipeline and this investment helps us build in an area prime for continued regional and national economic growth.”

Said Sen. Shaheen, “I am pleased to support Keene State College’s leadership in these critical fields and am glad to have secured this funding to help the college expand and grow these programs. By investing in training and education in these emerging industries, we can support the workforce and ensure that we have a strong pipeline of well-educated people ready to work in the jobs of the future.”

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229 Main Street
Keene, New Hampshire 03435