Uniquely Abled Project Academy and GateWay Launch Inclusive CNC Manufacturing Program for Neurodiverse Students

Thursday, May 16, 2024
Two make students in blue shirts

The Uniquely Abled Project Academy (UAA) and GateWay Community College, Washington Campus' Center for Industrial Technology make a groundbreaking effort to promote inclusion and diversity in the workforce. Developed with First Place AZ, this innovative program is designed specifically for neurodiverse individuals interested in pursuing a Computer Numerical Control (CNC) manufacturing career. 

First Place AZ, an organization dedicated to supporting neurodiverse individuals, will play a crucial role in the program. Through a Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) grant, they will award scholarships to the initial cohort of 12 students, ensuring educational accessibility for all. The program is actively recruiting candidates for the first cohort starting in Fall 2024.

CNC manufacturing training and employment pathways are evolving to become more inclusive, particularly for neurodiverse individuals. UAA and GateWay have collaborated to design a supportive learning environment that fosters acceptance and a curriculum that meets the unique needs of neurodiverse learners. By recognizing and catering to the students' strengths and perspectives, this approach not only enriches the CNC workforce but also opens doors for individuals who might excel in this precise and structured industry. 

Rodger Shepherd, Skill Up Arizona Program Coordinator for UAA, shares, "The CNC Manufacturing Program for Neurodiverse Students goes beyond traditional training. It offers scholarships, tuition aid, and tool and transportation assistance, ensuring every participant has the opportunity to thrive. The UAA program aims not only to impart training but also to catalyze personal transformation. Our objective is to empower neurodiverse individuals with the skills and support they need to thrive in the precision manufacturing sector."

Successful completion of CNC Machine Operator, or CNC Machining I and II certifications can lead to employment in various occupations, such as CNC Operators, Lathe and Turning Machine Operators, Machinists, Manufacturing Production Technicians, and more. Employment growth for CNC Programmers alone is projected to surge by 20.6% over the next four years, accompanied by an average salary of $62,660, indicating the high demand for CNC manufacturing.

“By providing neurodiverse individuals with the skills and support they need to succeed in CNC manufacturing, we're not only addressing industry demands but also creating opportunities for personal and professional growth,” said Manufacturing Program Director, Dave Zamora. “At GateWay, we believe in the power of education to transform lives, and the UAA program is a testament to our dedication to creating a more diverse and inclusive workforce for the future.”

With GateWay's unwavering support, backed by dedicated faculty and scholarships from First Place AZ, the UUA program will address the demand for meaningful career pathways for neurodiverse individuals and tackle CNC talent shortages by integrating neurodiverse talent into Arizona’s workforce.

To learn more about GateWay’s Manufacturing degrees and certificates, visit gatewaycc.edu/degrees-certificates/manufacturing.