PRESQUE ISLE, Maine — Officials at Northern Maine Community College believe that new equipment in its precision metals manufacturing lab will give their students an edge in the classroom and in the job market.

A new state-of-the-art automation lathe came to the college recently as a result of a partnership between NMCC and Haas Automation Inc., which is the largest computer-numerical-control machine tool builder in the Western Hemisphere, according to its website.

The $110,000 lathe already is in place in the precision metals manufacturing lab at NMCC as the result of a newly signed school entrustment agreement. The partnership is facilitated and supported by Trident Machine Tools LLC, a Windsor, Conn.-based reseller for Haas.

The high-tech unit, which stands 7 feet tall and occupies approximately 105 square feet of space, was first put to use when students returned to campus for the spring semester earlier this month. According to Dean Duplessis, NMCC precision metals manufacturing instructor, the equipment boasts significant hardware and software upgrades, including increased tool and part capacity, which will provide students with a much broader spectrum of “real-world” project experience in the lab than has been available. The new software incorporated into the lathe provides new and enhanced functions to facilitate setup and component manufacturing.

“This machine will really bring increased opportunities for students,” Duplessis said. “The benefits to the students in the program are just immeasurable. We are very lucky to have this machine in here, and the students are already so excited about it.”

The precision metals manufacturing program was introduced at NMCC in 2002, through an initial investment of federal funds championed by U.S. Sen. Susan Collins to boost the emerging industry in the state and region. In 2003, the facility that houses the program was designated as the first Haas Technical Education Center in Maine and endorsed by both Haas and Trident Machine as a program that would reinvigorate precision manufacturing in the northern part of the state and draw students to a career field that was struggling with a marked shortage of skilled workers.

The Presque Isle college and Haas entered into an entrustment agreement at that time, and Haas equipment, valued at hundreds of thousands of dollars, was placed in the precision metals manufacturing lab.

Duplessis said one of the benefits of the new machine is that it helps students learn about transitioning to new equipment. When in the work force, he said, they will encounter tools and machines that they’ll work with for a while, but that likely will be replaced quickly with newer, more technically advanced equipment.

“The opportunity for these students to continue to learn on the existing equipment but also to transition and learn on this new machine is great,” he said. “That is what they will encounter once they get into the work force.”

The new, more advanced skills, he added, will make the students more marketable and attractive to prospective employers.

“The students gravitated to this machine immediately,” he noted. “It is a big magnet that I believe will attract more students here.”

A number of Aroostook County employees have similar machines, he said, but not to the extent that they exist statewide.

Duplessis said there is great industry demand in the region for students completing NMCC’s precision metals manufacturing program. He said graduates are recruited heavily each year by local and statewide firms, as well as companies in New Brunswick.