Lebanon manufacturer expanding, seeks trained workers - WCAX.COM Local Vermont News, Weather and Sports-

Lebanon manufacturer expanding, seeks trained workers

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Scissors are not needed for this ribbon cutting.  Instead -- Hypertherm's plasma cutting tool does the trick.

Employees, community members and New Hampshire Governor Maggie Hassan are celebrating the grand opening of a new 160,000 square foot facility just off Interstate 89 in Lebanon.

"We needed capacity to meet our growth needs.  But we are also continually investing in our research and development capabilities," said Evan Smith, the president of Hypertherm.

More than 250 machine workers are on the payroll at the $50 million state-of-the-art facility.  "Today we do over 98 percent of our production here in New Hampshire," Smith said.

But finding a skilled workforce in a rural region is not easy, so Hypertherm is creating its own workforce, just like the industrial plasma cutters and other tools it manufactures for ship building and other industries.  

"We have run into many of the same issues you are probably experiencing or suggesting in Vermont.  The difference in that Hypertherm has made a commitment.  Instead of going out to the workforce and try to find them, Hypertherm has decided to build them," said Matthew Burge with Hypertherm's Technical Training Institute.

The company is doing it by following the model of Burlington-based non-profit Vermont High Tech -- an intensive nine week immersion program that teaches anyone with a high school diploma how to work the company's manufacturing machines.  The finished product burns plasma through a torch which is able to cut steel.  

Governor Hassan told the crowd that these days, education and jobs of the future go hand in hand. "Helping to develop a new education partnership with our community colleges, as well as making sure our K-12 educators are focused on science, technology, engineering, math -- the S.T.E.M. fields," Hassan said.

The facility has the capability to double its workforce to 500 employees. Company officials said that is the goal and that the facility could be used as a model for the future of manufacturing in the United States.  

Hypertherm has about 1,300 employees worldwide.  One-thousand of them work in New Hampshire.

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