SOUTHAMPTON — J&E Precision Tool Inc., an aerospace and defense machine shop, is one of the manufacturing companies in the area that takes Westfield Technical Academy cooperative education students every year.
Vice President of Operations John Labrie said he can’t remember exactly how many years they have been participating in the program, but the first co-op student they ever took still works for the company.
WTA Assistant Principal Kevin Daley said J&E typically takes two students a year.
“There have been so many. Some kids move on to further their education. We’re still in touch with some of them,” Labrie said. He said the company also takes students from Smith Vocational in Northampton, Pathfinder Tech in Palmer and Franklin Tech in Turners Falls.
Current Westfield Tech co-op students at J&E are David Shpak and Marion Ozaruk, both seniors in Manufacturing Technology. Dom Gavioli, who began as a co-op student at J&E until graduating last year, continues to work there while working on an engineering degree at Springfield Technical Community College.
Labrie said the co-op students have a good work ethic, and they find there are specialties in the work each can do.
“David has really taken to inspections,” Labrie said about Shpak, who coordinates the measuring machine and inspects the parts they make.
Ozaruk works on maintenance and repair of the machinery, and Gavioli does assembly, inspection, runs machines and washes parts.
Labrie, who just joined the Manufacturing Advisory Board at WTA, said he always stresses the importance of being accurate to the co-op students.
“We work on parts that will be racing across the sky at Mach 2 with a pilot at 40,000 feet. When they push a button, [it has to work]. Everything we do, someone’s life is riding on it. It is important stuff,” he said.
Shpak said he’s learning more than he would if he were in school right now. Co-op students often begin work at the end of their junior years, work through the summer and during their senior year during co-op weeks. They get shop credit for the hours they put in, and also get paid as employees of the company.
“You learn how to apply the skills you’ve learned in the real world,” Gavioli said.
“What we’ve learned is they won’t release kids until they’re prepared. We’ve never turned anyone back for not being prepared to work,” Labrie said, adding, “Most people, if they want to stick around, they stick around.”
“It’s a win-win. You’re giving back to the community by taking our kids,” said Kevin Daley, assistant principal at WTA.
Co-Op Corner is a series of stories about Westfield Technical Academy students and the workplaces where they are interning. Businesses interested in learning more about the cooperative education program can contact Kevin Daley at Westfield Technical Academy at 413-572-6533 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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