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franklin county times

Machinery aids Vina students


Students at Vina High School will soon be able to work on a state-of-the-art CNC router at the school. | Nathan Strickland/FCT


VINA- Industrial development has become a major priority for many Franklin County officials and school educators, making sure all are ready when the jobs come in.

Vina High School plans on putting their students at the front of the industrial job market, as grants have produced some of the latest technology and equipment used in the industrial field.

Building Technology instructor Richard Graben, who is in his 18th year as an educator and stepping into his 6th year at VHS, said around three years ago he began working with Community Education coordinator Dr. Susan Hargett to apply for an ARC grant to provide equipment for industrial education purposes.

The system later received a $100,000 grant that was split between the Career Technical Center in Belgreen and VHS.

Graben said the $50,000 that went to VHS was used to purchase a premiere piece of equipment called a “Computer Numerical Control Router (CNC)” which is used in many industrial manufacturing plants today.

Graben said some metal companies use this equipment, but the one at VHS is only designed to deal with wood.

“Most of your industries are running routers just like the one we have,” Graben said. “Tiffin’s has ten or more, C&C Wood Crafters in Phil Campbell has three… any of your major manufacturing companies, including metal companies, possesses this new type of machine.”

Graben said G&G Steel located in Russellville actually builds this machinery at their plant.

The router has not been put together as of yet, but Graben believes his students will learn more by putting it together.

“I’m the type of guy that is interested in how these machines tick,” he said. “Every class is going to learn that by having to put this machine together piece by piece. We will of course bring in a licensed electrician to do the wiring to follow protocol. We have got a lot of work to do.”

Graben said the router will hopefully be up and running by Christmas this year and the students will have a huge advantage after learning about the machine.

“I believe my students will be able to go apply for an industrial manufacturing job with great knowledge about this essential piece of equipment and get the job,” he said. “We plan on getting some more tools that support this machine to expand their knowledge of tools used in the industrial field and get them ready for those industrial jobs that are expected to come here. We also plan on getting sponsors to help us get other stuff we need and couldn’t get to go along with the router.”

Graben said getting this new equipment would jump-start many careers as kids exit high school.

“I just can’t set here and use the old machines and expect those who take this class to get a job right out of high school,” he said. “I think my students or any other classes that can get this type of equipment and really study it, should be able to find a job easily.”

Graben said having the router at VHS would also teach life skills to students.

“Kids don’t have a chance unless we go back to teaching them life skills,” he said.

Graben said schools should be informed from industries on “need-to-know” skills and what they expect from their employees so that educators can get the next work force ready for that job market.

“I am open to setting up the shop after school hours and having someone from the industrial manufacturing field to come and have a seminar on the router or any other equipment they believe important to have knowledge about,” Graben said. “We all need to open up our school systems to industrial personnel because we can’t train, unless we know what they are searching for.”

VHS principal James Pharr said the skills being taught to the students through the C&C router and Graben is essential to their success.

“Mr. Graben is the man with the plan,” Pharr said. “With this new piece of equipment he will be able to give our kids the skill set they need for careers and in their daily lives.”

Graben said the next piece of equipment he will shoot for is a spray booth to compliment the router.

Graben said eventually he would like to host adult education classes featuring the C&C router to help those who never found a useful skill from past experiences, but that will continue to be on the backburner as he takes just one step at a time.

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