October 28, 2021 by Alexander Stillson

FVCC Machining Program Receives Grant Funding for Student Scholarships

Flathead Valley Community College Trades and Industrial Arts received $24,000 in 2021-2022 scholarship funds for machining program students courtesy of the Gene Haas Foundation.

The scholarships will be available for all students in the machining program – both first year and second year students – and awarded based on academic performance. According to Peter Fusaro, Director of Trades and Industrial Arts at FVCC, the machining program currently has about 14 students, most of whom are employed locally after graduation.

“There’s a strong community connection between our machining program and local businesses. Our graduates get hired – places like PROOF Research, Defiance Machine, Applied Materials, Thompson Precision, Baiar Industries – the need is absolutely there and we’re happy to have the education available to anyone interested,” explains Dr. Dan Leatzow, FVCC Senior Manufacturing Instructor.

Leatzow became familiar with the Gene Haas Foundation while attending a manufacturing education conference in 2013, also his first year with FVCC. “The conference served as a platform to connect educators and industrial partners, and I was pleased to learn of the Gene Haas Foundation grant opportunities available to our students,” he says.

The foundation was established in 1999, and works around the world to help expand the pool of skilled workers by providing support to students currently enrolled in or interested in enrolling in manufacturing programs. Haas Automation, Inc. is a well-known machine tool builder, so the foundation was established as a way to support local communities and economies by focusing on education and career readiness for people headed toward a machining career.

Each year, schools, colleges, universities and career centers can apply for grant funding, which Leatzow has been doing every other year since 2015. “To date in total, we’ve received $84,000 in scholarship funding from the Gene Haas Foundation. We must spend each grant over a two-year time period, so we’ve been able to have funds available to students entering the program as well as students working on their second year,” says Leatzow.

Leatzow grew up in the Flathead Valley, and through his pursuit of lifelong learning, landed back in the valley after traveling to earn two undergraduate degrees, a master’s, a PhD, and several job postings within the aerospace, engineering, biotechnology and water systems industries. With extensive experience as both the learner and then the hirer, he’s able to give students a unique perspective as an educator in the classroom.

“Machining program classes take a student through the entire process; inception to completion. They’ll come up with an idea, create the design, translate the project to the machines and create tool paths, then produce the component,” Leatzow explains.

For more information about FVCC’s Industrial Machine Technology program, request information at fvcc.edu/request-info.