COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. -- By the end of this summer, the Manufacturing Industry Learning Lab will be in business, and a special industry-education partnership is making it happen.

MiLL is the new name for the National Manufacturing Training Center, established last year in Colorado Springs by the Peyton and Widefield School Districts.

FDMC and Woodworking Network spoke recently with Dean Mattson, who is leading much of the effort.

Mattson said there are currently 64 industry partners involved in the training center, including 20 that have joined since the WIC conference in April.

The 46,000 square foot training center will be used for manufacturing training for high school, college and industry. The training center has enrolled 135 students enrolled and classes are due to start August 15. The building will be remodeled by July 15, and will have dust collection, air and HVAC at the start of operations.

“This thing is evolving very quickly, after the WIC conference,” Mattson said. “My point at WIC was that this will be the national training center. (I told them) this is your national training center, your attention needs to be here.”

The IWF management committee and its owner groups WMMA and WMIA made a $25,000 donation that was given to the MILL from the IWF Fair.

Sherwin-Williams recently made an exclusive 10-year exclusive agreement with MiLL, and is providing finishing assets to the training center. Also, Timesavers-DuBois and Black Bros. are working to develop a cabinet finishing center.

Stiles Machinery Inc. has been a major supporter of the program, and has already supplied a number of machines to the Colorado Springs training center. Equipment is arriving from other companies this summer.

“All of the technology that has been needed, $3 million so far, has been dedicated to the MiLL,” Mattson said. “The equipment suppliers have been totally supportive and have designated equipment to provide to the MiLL. The manufacturers still own the equipment.”

Dean Mattson teaching woodworking class at Peyton.

Peyton Woods program

In the fall of 2015, Peyton 23-JT Superintendent Tim Kistler hired Dean Mattson to teach state-of-the-art woodworking manufacturing classes. Mattson is a former professional cabinetmaker who started a similar program at a high school in Oregon that was a success. The program became known as the Peyton Woods Manufacturing Program. 

Widefield School District Superintendent Scott Campbell was impressed by the potential of the program and took the opportunity to get his students involved.

The success of the program, in less than a year, prompted Mattson, Kistler and Campbell to create a partnership that will allow the program to expand. The two school districts entered into a partnership through the Peyton/Widefield Vocational Education Campus. 

Student profiles

Students from high school, college, military, and industry will be welcomed at the new center.

The first group of students will come from Peyton, Widefield and surrounding school districts in Colorado.

“Students starting in the first year will be able to come back and say they were part of building the school,” Mattson said.

High school students coming to MiLL will also result in some funding from outside sources.

Also, Mattson said that MiLL has reached agreements with Red Rocks Community College and Pikes Peak Community College.

For Red Rocks, Mill received articulation, which means that MiLL can provide college credit to high school students.

Community colleges cover all educational requirements in their area. So schools have to be affiliated with a community college in order to give credit.

Red Rocks is considered to have one of the best wood programs in the U.S.

Pikes Peak doesn’t offer woods manufacturing, but they need construction and CNC technology courses. They will send students to MiLL for a degree program. Then they can offer associate degrees.

Military veterans can also use G.I. Bill funding, through a community college, to get training at the MiLL.

“This is something I’ve wanted to do for a long time to honor our wounded heroes,” Mattson said. “These will be p.m. classes.”

Open house at new training center site in November.

Industry training

There are a number of CNC salespeople from machinery manufacturers that don’t know how to build a cabinet. So industry can send those people to MiLL for cabinet manufacturing training.

Meanwhile, all of the seniors at Peyton are going into professional woodworking. Concepts in Millwork, an architectural millwork company and manufacturing company three miles from MiLL, just hired three more students, including the Skills U.S.A. cabinet competition winner.

Concepts in Millwork doesn’t have finishing capability, and sends cabinets to Denver for finishing. (Scott Robinson, CEO of Concepts in Millwork will be speaking with Dean at AWFS Fair.)

Mattson suggested taking unfinished cabinets directly to the MiLL and spraying the cabinets there. Concepts will have to maintain the equipment at the school, and use Sherwin-Williams finishes.

“The whole thing is about employers and manufacturers,” Mattson said.

Equipment companies can send their own employees to be trained on CNC machining centers, edgebanders, and boring machines.

“I’ve been asked, ‘How can I get our industry people in the classrooms?’ MiLL will be offering several-day courses on a particular equipment at the MiLL,” Mattson said.

Curriculum development

Mattson and Peyton have also been developing curriculum for woodworking instructors in other locations. They just completed Cabinet Manufacturing 1, which is 400 pages long, and they plan to launch Cabinet 1 and 2 at AWFS Fair.

The MiLL is going to provide the curriculum and will be teaching teachers. The teachers will be in MiLL classrooms for five days. Curriculum will include machines and tools. Bessey, Kreg and other companies will bundle tools, clamps, screws and glue, all on top of the machines on pallets for these teachers.

They are also working with Rikon, which will provide or lease machines such as drill press, band saw, and table saw.

Stiles Machinery plans to lease high-end equipment to teachers at an affordable rate .

“They get all 60 of our manufacturing partners when they buy the curriculum from MiLL,” Mattson said. “(In the past) that’s what made career technical education so cumbersome.”

Overall, Mattson said that businesses often start small and then grow. This is kind of a startup business that will grow into what it will be.

At AWFS Fair, See Peyton Woods Mfg./The Mill, in booth 10145, see kistler@peyton.k12.co.us for more information.

At AWFS Fair, Friday, July 21, 2017, at 1:30 to 3 p.m., a presentation on Manufacturing Training Centers: Sourcing Your Next Employees, will be presented with Scott Campbell, Widefield School District, Barry Carson, Xybix Systems, Inc., John Honey, Career Technical Education Center (CTEC), Salem, Oregon, Tim Kistler, Peyton School District, Dean Mattson, Peyton School District, and Scott Robinson, Concepts in Millwork, Inc.

Go to http://awfsfair.org/education/ for more information.

People from the woodworking industry who are interested in learning more about this partnership can visit the Peyton-Widefield Vocational Education Campus, E 4450 Foreign Trade Zone Boulevard Colorado Springs, Colorado 80925. An open house is planned for October.

“The vision will continue to be implemented,” Mattson said.