Transforming the Region’s Workforce from Fundamentals into the Future
In 1997, regional manufacturers identified a critical shortage of entry-level machinists and other manufacturing workers. Local manufacturers confirmed the difficulty in finding motivated, trainable employees. Training a highly-skilled workforce has formed the foundation of New Century Careers.
New Century Careers was established as a nonprofit organization in 1999. Since then, New Century Careers has strived to grow the skills of Southwestern Pennsylvania’s manufacturing workforce to improve the lives of individuals through the skills development that leads to good quality family-wage jobs and careers while also supporting the region’s vibrant and ever-changing advanced manufacturing environment.
When the group of representatives from Steel Center Area Vocational-Technical School, The Institute for Economic Transformation at Duquesne University, and executives representing seventeen manufacturers partnered to create the MANUFACTURING 2000 (M2K) training program to fill these positions, they couldn’t have imagined the rapid transformation of the region’s industry into a high-profile hub of eds and meds, mechatronics, robotics and links to cyber, military and aerospace markets.
While the fundamentals of manufacturing remain the foundation of NCC’s training, New Century Careers itself responds rapidly to the trends. In 2019, the launch of its Certified Registered Robotics Technician Apprenticeship Program and the installation of a Haas ST-10Y with FANUC robotic arm in 2021 enhanced NCC’s already robust capabilities to prepare trainees for the increasing demands of advanced manufacturing to fill robotics positions regionally. NCC is said to be one of just a few nonprofit training centers in the country to have these capabilities.
A public-private partnership with Southwestern Industries, Inc./TRAK Machine Tools established the TRAK Pittsburgh Showroom at NCC’s Anselmo Training Innovation Center in 2020. As a result, NCC trainees learn on industry-leading machines that will enhance their employability. Tri-state companies (Pennsylvania, Ohio and West Virginia) also benefit from the centrally located showroom and introduction to training possibilities for their incumbent employees.
Capitalizing on technology’s advantages, New Century Careers digitized its curriculum to accommodate and empower new generations of trainees using a mobile web application in 2022. The project built consistent visual procedural content for NCC’s Manufacturing 2000 (M2K) curriculum to be accessed through vendor Rewyndr’s application on tablets so that trainees can reference step-by-step instructor and industry knowledge as they complete their assignments. M2K is NCC’s PA State Registered Pre-apprenticeship Machinist Training Program.
As it was at its inception, a critical component of the New Century Careers formula is strong relationships with regional manufacturers and other industry partners. New Century Careers collaborates with 130 local Partner Company manufacturers, four local Workforce Investment Boards in nine counties, programs through Operation Next, PA CareerLink and EmployHER, and many supportive organizations shedding light on the opportunities and impact that manufacturing provides for the region’s people and economy.
Neil A. Ashbaugh
President & CEO
Neil Ashbaugh has twenty-three years’ experience in manufacturing – from the shop floor to HR and technical training management. Neil learned the manufacturing trade through a four-year state and federally-recognized apprenticeship and became a journeyman grinder. Hired by Oberg Industries, Inc. in Freeport, PA, initially as a journeyman grinder, he later held corporate positions there in sales and marketing and management roles of increasing responsibility in training and talent development, government projects and new product development.
At NCC, he manages operations and a broad range of programs including apprenticeship, production, sales, marketing, business development, corporate training and talent development, and workforce development. He led two major initiatives from inception — the Group Apprenticeship Program and the New Century Job Shop.
Neil is recognized in the region as a subject matter expert on machining training and workforce development. He has been called upon by the media, professional associations and school districts to promote manufacturing as a viable career path.
He was appointed to the Westmoreland-Fayette County Workforce Investment Board’s (WIB) Next Generation Manufacturing Industry Partnership in 2002.
Tanika Harris has been with New Century almost from its inception! She started her tenure as an Administrative Assistant twenty years ago and was promoted to Office Manager in 2006. Tanika manages day-to-day operations as well as all areas of finance and administration, including support for NCC’s president and CEO. Her managerial skills and creative solutions to business challenges are an asset to NCC.
Her professional career in manufacturing carries over into her avocation. During the pandemic, Tanika started a hand-made business called My Sisters Crown, creating flower pots from Styrofoam mannequin heads, hand painted wooden and acrylic earrings, and pre-tied head wraps. “This business is all hands on deck. I don’t just consider it mine because the whole family helps out in one way or another, she says.” Tanika and her husband Donnie have been married for 16 years and have two daughters and a granddaughter she enjoys spending time with.
Larry Hayhurst has extensive experience including manual machining, CNC programming and robotics application skills, along with ten years’ experience managing Geometric Grinding, a tool and cutter grinding company in Irwin, PA. He was a tool and die maker at Dyna-Craft Inc., Murrysville, PA, and a tool and cutter grinder at Custom Tool and Grinding, Washington, PA.
Student Services & Development Associate
Sarah Bast is a recent graduate of the University of Pittsburgh with a Bachelor of Science degree in psychology and minors in Exercise science and sociology. She is originally from Long Island, New York, but certainly has an affinity for Pittsburgh after spending her college years here. She also plans to pursue her Master’s Degree in public administration.
Sarah’s work as a First Year Mentor for Pitt’s student orientation, planning events to acclimate them to their new surroundings, is ideal background for her position as the Student Services and Development Associate at New Century Careers. Sarah will be working with trainees in the Manufacturing 2000 pre-apprenticeship program, as well as assisting with grant-writing and communicating with stakeholders in the region. Sarah’s interest in training comes naturally. Her mother is a Work-Based Learning Coordinator at GC Tech in Levittown, NY.
Sales and Project Manager
Eric Pferdekamper is a veteran of workforce and economic development programs with over 20 years of experience in the public and non-profit sectors. Eric started his career in workforce development as the Business Development Supervisor for the Pittsburgh/Allegheny PA CareerLink offices. In this role, he developed and administered programs such as customized and on-the-job training programs for large and small businesses. Eric and his team consistently led the state as a Workforce Investment Area in expanding market share by obtaining new employer customers.
At New Century Careers, Eric continues his work with local employers as a Registered Apprenticeship Navigator, assisting them with establishing machinist and robotics technician apprenticeship programs. “These programs are a great way to ensure a skilled and efficient workforce as well as supporting employers’ recruitment and retention activities,” he says.
“Working at New Century Careers has been a very rewarding experience. I recognize that our local manufacturing sector is a critical component to the overall health of our regional economy and I believe in our mission to support this sector through upskilling our workforce. It seems, since the decline/loss of Pittsburgh’s steel industry, the advanced manufacturing sector tends to be an overlooked industry for individuals seeking careers which is unfortunate as there are so many great opportunities. It’s great seeing our trainees quickly develop the skills needed to obtain a career with family sustaining wages and real growth potential,” Eric adds.
Ronald Buckner III
Marketing Communications Generalist
Ronald Buckner learned a lot about New Century Careers as an intern and was hired full time upon his graduation summa cum laude from Clarion University of Pennsylvania with a bachelor’s degree in digital media communications and a minor in speech communication. He currently coordinates, designs and updates marketing materials and is webmaster, newsletter editor and photographer, promoting NCC and its programs.
During his time on campus he was an active member of Sigma Chi, Tau Beta Sigma and other organizations in leadership roles. He participated in various music programs in high school — the marching band, jazz band, and as a student director of school musicals. He is also an Eagle Scout.
Part-time Administrative Assistant
Sheila White has a vibrant personality that reflects her passion for the mission of New Century Careers.
Retiring after 22 years as executive assistant at the Mon Valley Initiative, she found herself looking for a new opportunity to share her knowledge and also learn something new. NCC was a match! Sheila started as a temp in 2019 in Student Services and was hired part-time to assist with various administrative tasks employing accounting and other software, including Salesforce, Constant Contact and Peachtree.
She advises NCC trainees to be open to knowledge. “You can have a specialty but don’t become too specialized,” she cautions. “New Century Careers offers interesting and versatile skills training that puts good steps in place for a career path, not just a job,” Sheila says. “The hands-on training components and smaller class size are plusses. And where else does the CEO walk by every day to engage with you!” she adds.
Director of Corporate Compliance
Oberg Industries, inc.
Ed. D., Faculty Fellow, Urban Education
University of Pittsburgh
Penn State Tool & Die Corporation
Portfolio Executive – Hardware Sector
Innovation Works, Inc.
Senior Business Advisor
Americas Sales Director, Factory Applications
Senior Director of Data, Reporting, and Compliance
American Gas Lamp Works
Formerly with West Penn Wire, a division of Belden Inc.
Allegheny Machine Tool Systems, Inc.
Westmoreland-Fayette Workforce Investment Board
Manager, Valation Services CFGI
- Joe Abraham (Quick Train)
- John Alexander
- Jim Baum
- Robert Dorko
- Derek Hirko
- Larry Hayhurst (CNC)
- Ken Pedder
- Paul Urban
- Odell Butler
- Mike Mills
- Odell Butler
- Lou Pavsek
- Michael Chartrand
- Leo Wozniak