The idea that only Manufacturers need to stay current with the emerging trends in advanced technology for their industry is a misnomer.  The Economic Development and Workforce Education community is the pipeline to those manufacturers and must stay ahead of the power curve for emerging technical talent knowledge and education, as well - in order to feed that pipeline and be prepared to assist in upskilling the incumbent workforce. 


Educators can accomplish this and gain a clear understanding of the trends today by working closely with liaison organizations like the National Association for Manufacturers (NAM), the Society for Manufacturing Engineers (SME) and the National Coalition of Advanced Technology Centers (NCATC) which helps their members stay up to date with Manufacturing USA Institutes (i.e. LIFT; Lightweight Materials / Processes, America Makes; 3D Printing / Additive Manufacturing, NextFlex; Flexible Electronics, DMDII; Digital Design & Manufacturing / Industrial Internet of Things, and ARM; Advanced Robotics for Manufacturing ) for their efforts, needs, and emerging technologies.  Additionally, organizations like the NIST / Manufacturing Extension Partnerships (MEP’s), and large manufacturing corporations can also provide formal and informal linkages to their advanced technology resources making for strong collaborations of knowledge and skills.


Partnering has become the powerhouse approach to accomplish state-of-the-market workforce education with real-world, highly-valued collaborations to meet the current and future demands for the next generation of manufacturing workers.


The best way for Middle / High Schools, CTE, and Colleges to have ongoing local/regional interaction with manufacturing thought leaders is to establish Business & Industry Leadership Teams (BILT) with local and regional practitioners to gain a real understanding of their needs and vice-versa.  Key leaders (HR, Operations, Owners, etc.) need to commit to actively participate at the colleges on a regular basis – not just twice a year over breakfast or lunch as 20th century Advisory Committees have done - to review, understand, refine, approve and promote the courses, programs, and degrees that will meet their current and future workforce needs.   Curriculum can and should be shorter-term “fast track”, “boot camp”, and certificate oriented that are stackable and lead to full 2-year degree opportunities for students and incumbent workers which guides them on their lifelong career and education path with greater knowledge and skills to keep up with the ever-changing landscape in the 21st century.


After spending a week in Sioux Falls, SD with many of the most talented and passionate leaders of industry, education, economic and workforce development professionals I developed a very short list ideas for engagement with local and regional manufacturers:

·         Find the right person from each organization that is willing and able to participate and will feel “invested” in the program.  BILT members can be someone from human resources, plant or operations management; and in small companies, the owner.

·         Encourage and invite them to actively participate by pledging to provide them with skilled workers that have demonstrated the desired competencies, knowledge, and skills to be hired, retained, or promoted.

·         Develop a formal schedule of deliverables that meet the needs of all stakeholders providing accurate data-driven benchmarks towards completion. 

·         Recruit one or two of the industry leaders on the BILT, to run a high-value monthly meeting with a concise agenda for all local / regional stakeholders from industry, education, and government.

·         Prepare the pathway for the employers to promote, help recruit, and have “first dibs” on mentoring, hiring (interns, apprentices, etc.) students entering and completing the program.

·         Work-based learning is a near perfect public-private partnership. Think apprenticeships!


More now than ever - we cannot expect to operate in silos and think that the “other side” bears the full responsibility alone to find ways to address the growing skills gap.  True collaboration and partnership between industry and education is imperative if we are to be successful in closing that skills gap the 21st century.  All stakeholders must nurture real partnerships to share the actions, responsibility, and outcomes for successful Economic & Workforce Development of Education in Advanced Manufacturing careers.


By J. Craig McAtee, Executive Director for the National Coalition of Advanced Technology Centers (NCATC) 



TAGS:  #Emerging trends, #Advanced Manufacturing, #Ahead of the power curve, #Partnering, #Business industry leadership teams, #Silos, #Sioux Falls, #South Dakota




J. Craig McAtee - is the Executive Director for the National Coalition of Advanced Technology Centers (NCATC) and a Workforce Development Executive for Tooling U-SME. Between 2013-16 he served as Director of Additive Manufacturing for Tri-C and Executive Director of the Workforce and Economic Development Division of Cuyahoga Community College (Tri-C) 2000-2007. Before that - he spent over twenty-five (25) years in engineering and senior leadership positions for Swagelok Company, an international manufacturing organization, based in Solon, Ohio.


While at Tri-C, he provided Dean level management of all new and existing applied technologies related credit and non-credit curriculum development, apprenticeships, articulation, and deployment with over $5.5 million dollar annual budgets. He was responsible for all of the advanced and applied technologies related programs including Manufacturing, Apprenticeships, CAD/CAM, CNC, Integrated Maintenance, Industrial Distribution, Construction, and the Lean Six Sigma Institute. McAtee also provided leadership for special projects directed by the College President and Executive Vice Presidents, as needed.


In addition to his role at NCATC, he provides direction, technical support, and external evaluation for several national grants including the Automotive Manufacturing Technical Education Collaborative (AMTEC), Weld-Ed (OH), Smart Grid Technicians (HI), Necessary Skills Now (TX), RCBI/Marshall Apprenticeship Works (WV), and others. He also is an active member of the Workforce & Economic Development Commission for the American Association of Community Colleges (AACC) in DC and was recently elected the Chair of AACC’s Council of Affiliated Councils (COAC).


McAtee received an Associate of Arts degree from Cuyahoga Community College, an Industrial Engineering degree from Kent State University, a Bachelor’s degree in International Management from Malone College, and an Executive MBA from Cleveland State University. He is actively involved with MSSC, NIMS, Manufacturing Foresight, America Makes Workforce Council, and ManufacturingUSA workforce collaborations. McAtee is also an adjunct professor at Cleveland State University, as time permits.



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