Educators Focus on Industry Needs to Build the Next Generation of Manufacturing Talent

Posted By: J. Craig McAtee, Executive Director, National Coalition of Advanced Technology Centers (NCATC) on June 06, 2019

Craig McAtee

Today we welcome Craig McAtee, Executive Director of the National Coalition of Advanced Technology Centers (NCATC), to provide insights on how business and industry leadership teams (BILT’s) can play a crucial role in filling the manufacturing skills gap .

Imagine a manufacturing graduate walking out with his or her new credentials, ready to get a job, only to find that their skills do not match what is available in their area. All that time, money, and effort, and no job available. Where is the disconnect?

Community and technical colleges have the greatest opportunity to fill the manufacturing skills gap with newly trained skilled workers who can focus on community and industry needs. They also have a responsibility to provide their graduates with a direct link to jobs in their area. Colleges are investing millions of dollars in new high-tech equipment, instructor training, and recruitment for manufacturing education. Shouldn’t they first be asking, “Is what we’re offering and the equipment we are purchasing a good match for our area employers?”

One of the best ways to build the next-generation manufacturing talent is with input from a Business and Industry Leadership Team (BILT). The model was developed and refined by the National Convergence Technology Center, and their toolkit explains the process so that education institutions can more easily implement the model.1

A BILT is a group of technology-savvy employers who work in partnership with educators to co-lead a technical education program. BILT engagement goes beyond that of a typical advisory board to actually work with educators to develop curriculum resulting in technicians who are ready for the manufacturing workforce.

A good example of a BILT is the one that was implemented by Tooling U-SME’s strategic partners, the National Coalition of Advanced Technology Centers (NCATC) in collaboration with the National Science Foundation’s (NSF) Advanced Technological Education (ATE) Program (NSF ATE Partnership with NCATC Members). This type of collaboration will help you continually improve relationships with business and industry to meet local needs.

When reaching out and building your BILT committee, it’s important to consider:

  • How often will you will engage the committee?
  • What type of work-based learning opportunities the committee can provide your students?
  • Do you have the right balance of companies and job roles?
  • Who you will recruit from each manufacturer?
  • Does the committee represent student diversity?

Because there is a strong nationwide trend for K-12 schools to add project-based learning to curriculum, it’s the ideal time for community colleges to encourage leaders from the manufacturing industry to proactively engage and influence the process of education for manufacturing careers. Vice presidents of operations and manufacturing and their human resources departments are the key players to guide the outreach and have an impact on this future generation of learners.

As you develop the leaders for your BILT committee, let them know their commitment will entail:

  • Meeting several times per year to provide feedback and advice on the types of training they see in high demand within the community
  • Working with instructors to design curriculum, training, and development strategies that meet the skill and knowledge demands
  • Offering job shadowing and/or internships to get the students engaged and excited about the possibilities
  • Being a public advocate for manufacturing in their community and promoting the advantages of a career in manufacturing
  • Serving as a guest speaker, mentor, adjunct instructor or student advisor
  • Pledging to interview successful graduates, and, where applicable, place them in open positions

BILT’s and/or advisory boards are not only useful for providing input for curriculum and training, they are also great at cultivating relationships and driving fundraising efforts. When members are fully invested in a program, they are more likely to support it financially, including the donation of materials. They have resources to help raise the visibility of a program, which can, in turn, increase enrollment and completion rates at educational institutions.

One tip for developing your committees – ask people to join in person. A face-to-face invitation shows them that you are serious, and enthusiasm for a program goes a long way toward persuading them to come on board.

BILT committees and their companies are great resources for collaboration, from joining forces to promoting the program to offering internships for targeted training. Read Tooling U-SME’s recent blog “How Strong Manufacturing Communities Can Help Close the Skills Gap”. Having companies involved in your workforce education training breeds conversations, ideas, and growth that can benefit the colleges and the companies and help close the skills gap.


1. Implementing the BILT Model of Business Engagement: A Guide for Strengthening Industry Commitment for Technical Programs.



Tags: "Advanced Technological Education", ATE, BILT, "Community and Technical Colleges", fund-raising, "National Coalition of Advanced Technology Centers", "National Science Foundation", NCATC, NSF, "public advocate", "skills gap", "Tooling U-SME", "workforce education"