LYNN — Enthralled by its sprawling buildings and giant jet engines during a sixth grade tour, Luz Vasquez took a step closer Thursday to realizing her dream of landing a job in General Electric’s River Works.
The Lynn Vocational Technical Institute (LVTI) junior and 25 machine shop students toured an engine assembly shop and accepted River Works efficiency expert Phil Abels’ challenge to build a miniature structure using spaghetti and a marshmallow.
The tour and science, technology and engineering challenges are part of GE and LVTI’s effort to build a talent pipeline from the school to River Works and supplying the plant with freshly-trained machinists.
“One struggle for us is finding skilled machinists,” said Ashley Ritchie, GE’s organizational talent development leader. “This is really important.”
A shortage of trained machinists ready to fill jobs vacated by retiring machine operators is an industry-wide problem, said LVTI precision machine instructor Michael Pickering.
He said he hopes Vasquez and her classmates help expand a cooperative work program started last year by GE and LVTI. The program has one participant, senior Luis Sanchez, a pre-engineering shop student.
The juniors enrolled in the machine shop will be academically prepared by February to compete for, what Ritchie said, will probably be five machinist co-op slots at the facility.
Students chosen to fill the positions will alternate between a week of school study and a 40-hour work week at the River Works where they will be paired with an employee mentor and guided through aspects of machine work at the plant.
“These kids are attentive, motivated and excited to go out and compete for a co-op opportunity,” Pickering said.
Co-op training will position LVTI students to apply for a job at the River Works and embark on a machinist career in the plant, Ritchie said.
Luz was not on the winning edible objects construction team selected by Abels. But the exercise reinforced what she has known about the River Works since she first toured the plant.
“I basically fell in love with the place and my main goal has been to work here,” she said.