Lessons in establishing a governance structure from Great Bay Community College

blogimage_TechTrainingFrom The Intersector Project Case Library: Creating a Technical Training Program in New Hampshire

Safran USA and Albany Engineered Composites partnered in the 1990s to create innovative aerospace products. In 2012, their partnership yielded a new type of fan blade for airplane engines. Constructed of composite materials, the blade promised greater cost- and fuel-efficiency for the airplanes used by many carriers. Safran and Albany needed to develop a manufacturing site and acquire a workforce of hundreds in a short period of time to meet the expected demand. Meanwhile, Rochester, New Hampshire, was actively trying to improve economic development opportunities for its citizens following the relocation of several industrial companies and recognized Safran and Albany’s need as an opportunity to increase jobs in the area.

In partnership with Great Bay Community College, under the leadership of Will Arvelo, City officials proposed that the companies build their manufacturing site in a state industrial park. They likewise proposed that by training students of Great Bay Community College, they could provide a certified workforce. This cross-sector partnership resulted in a manufacturing site for the fan blades and an advanced education and work-training curriculum in aerospace technology. One and a half years later, in June 2013, the Advanced Technology and Academic Center (ATAC) of Great Bay Community College welcomed its first cohort of students.

The collaboration was remarkable in its use of a tactic The Intersector Project Toolkit refers to Establish a Governance Structure — the creation of a formal or informal organizational system for project management. Clear governance structures, such as committees, workgroups, or facilitated discussions, provide direction while ensuring equity and inclusivity to resolve actual or perceived power imbalances that can arise during collaboration.

The collaboration that produced ATAC used a fluid governance structure, which adapted as it progressed. At the curriculum design stages, there were formal meetings between Safran and Great Bay Community College to discuss the details of the project to ensure the responsibilities of each party were solidified. As each group became more trusting, communication improved. Monthly meetings between Albany Engineered Composites, Safran, Great Bay Community College, and New Hampshire’s Department of Resources and Economic Development (DRED) continue, where partners discuss potential changes to be made to the curriculum and laboratory equipment, the screening process for incoming students, the layout of the facilities, creating student-company engagement, and increasing enrollment and productivity to meet the companies’ needs.

On a weekly basis, the Program Director from Great Bay Community College met with company engineers to discuss curriculum issues such as finding expert faculty and ensuring that training equipment is appropriate to training needs. Though final decisions about all aspects of the program are made by consensus, the partners play different roles in coming to decisions. Great Bay is in most direct contact with the day-to-day details of the program since they are the educational institute through which the curriculum is run. DRED plays a supportive role, managing and advocating on behalf of the companies and to address the needs of the community college if necessary. The two companies lend their expertise in engineering, and in keeping up with the equipment needs of the courses.

ATAC has succeeded because of the collaborative effort of Safran USA, Albany Engineered Composites, the State of New Hampshire, and Great Bay Community College. The six-month advanced engineering training program provides students the opportunity to specialize in eight different manufacturing engineering trades and awards certificates in Advanced Composites Manufacturing. ATAC helps the City of Rochester, and the State of New Hampshire as a whole, to position themselves as industry-friendly.