Clark State increases effort for providing, enhancing advanced manufacturing skills

“Industry 4.0” has arrived at Clark State College in the form of a $3.5 million Department of Labor grant. Coined in 2011, “Industry 4.0” refers to the developmental process in the management of manufacturing and chain production. It also refers to the fourth industrial revolution.

In January, Clark State College received $3,503,325 from the H-1B One Workforce Grant Program by the U.S. Department of Labor. As a grant recipient, Clark State will focus on upskilling the current workforce and training the workforce of the future for critical industries, such as advanced manufacturing.

“Clark State College has made a name for itself as a leader in advanced manufacturing since receiving our $2.5 million TAACCCT grant in 2014,” says Dr. Jo Alice Blondin, president of Clark State. “This grant builds upon that work through providing a new and futuristic pathway - laser manufacturing - as well as expanding access to individuals who wish to reskill by training for a good paying job. Clark State has and will be excellent stewards of this money and the workforce we plan to serve.”

Clark State will use innovative training strategies and training delivery methods to provide people with the skills necessary to succeed in middle- and high-skilled H-1B occupations. Training models will include a broad range of classroom, on-the-job training, customized training and incumbent worker training.

The college will also purchase equipment to support a new photonics – or laser material processing – certificate. This certificate will be embedded in Clark State’s current program to allow students to receive quick training around photonics.

“One cannot think of advanced manufacturing without considering lasers and photonics,” says Dr. Larry Dosser, ARCTOS Senior Technology Fellow Emeritus, who is a premier subject matter expert and Clark State community partner. “Simply put photonics is the technology of generating and using light (photons). We live in a world of light and many say that photonics will be as significant to the 21st century as electronics was to the 20th.”

Dosser says the workforce needs to be prepared, and Clark State’s program focuses on the manufacturing applications in laser material processing.

“This is the foundation of Industry 4.0 and a fundamental concept of the Smart Factory,” says Dosser. “Many today view the laser as an ideal tool for Industry 4.0, particularly since laser material processing/photonics is combination of the precision of the laser with precision motion (robotics).”

Dosser says there is a tremendous shortage of technicians being produced with the knowledge and skills that industry requires: problem solving skills, hands-on experience, digital computer skills, basic math, 3-D printing/additive manufacturing, a knowledge of CAD, presentation skills, and project management.

“The technician needs to understand the fundamentals of the technologies that comprise Industry 4.0,” he says. “These technologies are exponentially changing, and the training/education community requires assistance to maintain the appropriate level of education.”

Dosser says to establish an educated workforce for additive manufacturing, material processing, and photonics, it's necessary to establish the appropriate career and technical education (CTE) to provide the pathway for secondary school students, community college graduates, and university graduates.

“The CTE approach offers each student opportunities to personalize his or her education based on respective career interests and unique learning needs and this process needs to begin as early as possible,” he says. 

Dosser says manufacturing in the Miami Valley region includes medical device, aerospace, and defense all of which are utilizing the combination of lasers and robotics to advance Industry 4.0.

“Education in these areas is critical to the advancement of manufacturing, and the program at Clark State represents an important step forward,” he says.

Clark State will focus on micro credentials that can be completed in as little as eight weeks. Each credential can be stacked with other micro credentials to complete a one-year certificate. Two one-year certificates can be stacked to complete a Manufacturing Engineering Technology Associates degree. Students can also continue their education in Clark State’s first four-year BAS Manufacturing Technology Management degree.

With grant funds, Clark State also plans to purchase a 3D metal printer for prototyping and product development and material testing.

Clark State is one of only 19 recipients of the grant which includes institutions of higher education, entities involved in administering the workforce investment system established under the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act, non-profit organizations and economic development organizations.

Amy Donahoe, director of workforce development for the Chamber of Greater Springfield, says Clark State has been a major player for the local business community.

“(The college) has been so nimble and changing programming to meet business needs,” she says. “With this grant they are looking to be the leader and they know this is the next step for many businesses. Clark State wants to be sure we have a ready-workforce that is technologically advanced.”

Donahoe says manufacturing in general is a major driver for Clark County and the region.

“The jobs pay well, and they continue to become more advanced and require skills,” she says. “Through this grant, Clark State will gradually build with the stackable credentials allowing the student to continue with a job while continuing their education.”

Donahoe says there are a number of Clark County job openings in manufacturing, and the Chamber is trying to help in the schools to change what “manufacturing” looks like.

“It’s not a ‘dirty job,’” she says. “It’s a high-tech job with very low (margins) for discrepancies – so things like math, efficiency, and dedication to quality are important. Manufacturing is an economic driver.”

Read more articles by Darci Jordan.

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