In the News: John Wentz on St. Thomas’ Role in Filling US Manufacturing Job Market Gaps

John Wentz, mechanical engineering professor at the University of St. Thomas School of Engineering, recently spoke with KSTP-TV about St. Thomas being selected for the Department of Defense America’s Cutting Edge (ACE) program, which aims to help fill the gaps in the manufacturing workforce.

From the story:

“We’re very excited to be the first group here in Minnesota,” said John Wentz, associate professor and director of advanced manufacturing at the University of St. Thomas. “There’s a huge demand out there for machinists and machine operators.”

There were 1,289 job openings for machinists in Minnesota in 2022, according to the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development.

DEED noted that was the highest number of openings ever reported for machinists in Minnesota.

The median wage offer for machinists climbed to $30.58 in 2022, up almost 53% from the year before, according to DEED.

“CNC machining, or computer numerical controlled machining, is basically robotic machining,” Wentz explained. “All industries in the Twin Cities that are in manufacturing need it, from biomedical defense to aerospace. We can design a part and then cut away everything we don’t want from that block of metal. This gives us very accurate components that can be used in all of these different industries.”

Wentz said the ACE program will offer free introductory courses in machining, including online classes and hands-on training.

At the University of St. Thomas, the DOD funding will allow for the purchase of another CNC machine.

The university will start offering ACE to School of Engineering students this spring and run weeklong boot camps for the public starting this summer.

“This could be high school students, this could be veterans, this could be people looking to re-skill, coming back and saying, ‘What’s a new path for me to take?'” Wentz said.