(HELENA) Local business leaders got a closer look at Helena College’s machining and welding programs Friday.

The Montana Manufacturing Association, a subsidiary of the Montana Chamber of Commerce, organized a tour of the college’s airport campus. It’s part of a local celebration of National Manufacturing Day.

“You can’t have a thriving manufacturing sector if you don’t have a great workforce training operation,” said Dan Brunell, operations director for the Montana Chamber.

College leaders showcased equipment from lathes to 3-D printers, which students use to practice creating metal and plastic pieces. They said the machines are very similar to what graduates will use in their careers, with companies like Boeing and Pioneer Aerostructures.

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Leaders said many of their classes are putting more emphasis on teaching the use of computer-assisted tools in machining and welding. Ryan Loomis, an admissions counselor at Helena College, said that gives their students an advantage when they go into the workforce.

“It enables them to be competitive when they’re looking for work; it enables the employers to also utilize them as a technology-savvy employee,” said Loomis. “Employers don’t always have that in their shops, and so they’re looking for that student to be able to provide that.”

After Helena College, the Montana Manufacturing Association tour visited the newly expanded Boeing Helena fabrication facility and Marks Lumber in Clancy.

“We want to feature the diversity of manufacturing in Montana,” said Brunell.

Brunell said manufacturing jobs in Montana often offer salaries 10 to 15 percent higher than in other industries.

National Manufacturing Day occurs on the first Friday in October. Gov. Steve Bullock issued a statement recognizing Manufacturing Day and pointing to a report showing Montana has the fastest-growing manufacturing sector in the U.S.

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