Why Educators Need to Stay Ahead of the Curve

Posted By: J. Craig McAtee, Executive Director, National Coalition of Advanced Technology Centers (NCATC) on November 02, 2017

Emerging Trends in Advanced Technology and Manufacturing

Today, we welcome Craig McAtee, Executive Director, National Coalition of Advanced Technology Centers (NCATC), strategic partner and consultant for Tooling U-SME in Workforce and Education Development.

Craig McAtee

The idea that only manufacturers need to stay current with the emerging trends in advanced technology for their industry is a misnomer. As a pipeline to manufacturers, the workforce education community also must stay ahead of the technical education curve to meet the current and future demands for the next generation of workers along with upskilling the incumbent workforce.

Now more than ever, educators need to partner with local and regional manufacturers to better understand manufacturing trends to teach and train the technology experts of the future.

Yet that’s not always easy to do.

One of the best ways for colleges to establish ongoing interaction with manufacturing leaders is to establish a business industry leadership team (BILT) of manufacturing practitioners. This provides both educators and manufacturers with the opportunity to gain a real understanding of each other’s needs.

In their role as BILT members, key business leaders must commit to regularly reviewing, understanding, refining, approving and promoting the courses, programs and degrees that will meet their current and future workforce needs. These real-world, highly-valued collaborations often create new curriculum that is shorter-term “fast track” and stackable certificate-oriented, or lead to full two-year degree opportunities for students and incumbent workers. This sets the stage for a lifelong career and education path with greater knowledge and skills to keep up with the ever-changing manufacturing landscape.

In order to productively engage with local and regional manufacturers, educators need to:

  • Find the right person from each manufacturing organization who is willing and able to participate in a BILT, and will feel invested in the program. BILT members can be human resources representatives, plant or operations managers, or owners.
  • Encourage and invite manufacturers to actively participate by pledging to provide them with skilled workers who have demonstrated the desired competencies, knowledge and skills to be hired, retained or promoted.
  • Create accurate data-driven milestones to completion that meet the needs of all stakeholders during the course of the program, giving everyone an opportunity to monitor progress of the students and/or potential employees.
  • Recruit one or two BILT industry leaders to run a high-value monthly meeting with a concise agenda for all local and regional stakeholders from industry, education and government to ensure the highest quality program outcomes and student readiness for employment.
  • Provide a pipeline from which employers can recruit, mentor and hire (as interns or apprentices) students who enter and complete programs.

By engaging with liaison organizations such as the National Coalition of Advanced Technology Centers (NCATC) and SME, educators can gain a clear understanding of today’s manufacturing trends, allowing them to better meet current and future demands for manufacturing workers. Additionally, organizations such as the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), Manufacturing Extension Partnership (MEP) and large manufacturing corporations can also provide formal and informal links to their advanced technology resources, making for strong collaborations of knowledge and skills.

True collaboration and partnership between industry and education is imperative if we are to close the skills gap in the 21st century. All stakeholders must nurture real partnerships to share the actions, responsibility and outcomes for successful workforce development and education in advanced manufacturing careers.

Visit Tooling U-SME to learn more about bridging the skills gap through workforce and education development partnerships.

NCATC partners with community colleges and universities to reach, enhance and add value to business. The organi zation helps its members keep current with the efforts, needs and emerging technologies of over thirty corporate Strategic Partners, including many of the Manufacturing USA Institutes such as Lightweight Innovations for Tomorrow (LIFT), America Makes (3D printing and additive manufacturing), NextFlex (flexible electronics), Digital Manufacturing & Design Innovation Institute (DMDII) and Advanced Robotics for Manufacturing (ARM).

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