November 11, 2013

Opening its doors

Posted:Thursday, November 7, 2013 8:35 am | Updated: 8:38 am, Thu Nov 7, 2013.

By Wes Mayberry 

Nearing its 25th year in operation, local precision machine shop Avans Machine Inc. hosted an educational event Wednesday morning to provide Alabama A&M University students with firsthand knowledge of the machining industry to better prepare them for their professional careers.

According to a press release, Aerojet Rocketdyne, a rocket and missile propulsion manufacturer based in Canoga Park, Calif., is in a NASA mentor-protégé agreement with Huntsville-based Alabama A&M University. The agreement is administered through NASA headquarters and is sponsored by the Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville. As part of this two-year agreement that began in 2012, Aerojet will mentor A&M students and provide business and technical development, workforce readiness workshops, job search and career education advice, job shadowing, lectures, engineering-knowledge transfer opportunities and other career-readiness activities, the release said.

"It is a NASA-sponsored activity in which we commit to provide assistance over a two-year period to help the protégé with whatever their mission is," said Aerojet manager Brant Julian.

As part of this program, two professors and 12 engineering and business students from Alabama A&M joined Aerojet representatives at Avans Machine Inc. in Skyline on Wednesday morning for a presentation and interactive tour. These activities were used as a means for the students to learn about some of the best practices and pitfalls Avans has experienced with engineering drawings from various industries. The event also provided the students with a chance to see firsthand the process of manufacturing parts after the design process is completed.

Jeff Avans started the local machining business with his dad and brother in 1989 in a 1,500-square-foot facility, and today the company employs more than 50 workers in a 40,000-square-foot facility with some of the latest equipment. The company manufactures a wide range of components for the aerospace and defense, commercial and industrial, medical and pharmaceutical industries.

Later, in May 2010, Aerojet entered into a mentor-protégé agreement with Avans to provide guidance and assistance, and Julian says that relationship was the impetus for bringing the Alabama A&M students to Avans on Wednesday. Though this was the first time that the Alabama business had hosted such as event, Julian said everyone was really pleased with the response they received from the Alabama A&M professors and students.

"It’s really nice to see a company like Avans do so well," Julian said. "Jeff Avans seems to be very dedicated to the local community, and it’s great to see the company’s willingness to dedicate their time to share how to be successful with the students and professors from Alabama A&M. What I hope is that there were some seeds planted today that will help the students in their future careers."

Aerojet has been an Avans customer since 2009, and Julian says he has been nothing but pleased with the companies’ relationship despite Avans’ unique location. "You’re kind of out here in the middle of nowhere, and then all of a sudden, out pops this really nice machine house," Julian said. "But these guys have done everything that they said they would and more. They’ve provided quality hardware and treated us with respect, so a great relationship was built in that 2009 timeframe."

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