LONGMONT, Colo. (CBS4) – A college in Longmont is working to fill a labor shortage in the manufacturing industry by building an $8 million lab. Front Range Community College’s 27,000 square foot lab space, located on Sunset Street in Longmont, will house three new programs.

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A wall-breaking ceremony Friday marked the start of construction at the soon-to-be high tech training laboratory. The college will open its Center for Integrated Manufacturing to the first round of students in the summer of 2019.

Eric van der Heide, who graduated from the school’s existing precision machining program, said he quickly found work with a local aerospace company which has also hired five of his fellow alumni in the last few years.

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“Now that I’m working in that industry in a supervisory role, I see that more than ever, it’s very very hard to find skilled trained employees,” van der Heide told CBS4’s Melissa Garcia.

Andy Dorsey, President of Front Range Community College said that the school’s new automation and engineering, electronics, and optics programs will help Coloradans find good jobs and fulfill growing demand in area businesses.

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“All the people who had trained have largely been leaving the industry. So Colorado has been importing most of its trained workers. And the folks in the local communities are saying, ‘We can’t get enough workers to keep our shops running,’” Dorsey said.

Advanced Energy, a multi-national power conversion company based in Fort Collins, invested $200,000 into the lab.

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Students who attend classes in the manufacturing program could eventually join the company’s workforce.

“We operate in a very, very unique area of power electronics. So having a pipeline of skilled, highly trained technical employees is very strategic for us,” said Yuval Wasserman, CEO at Advanced Energy.

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