As I write this, I have just returned from the American Association of Community Colleges’ (AACC) annual conference on Workforce Development. This conference brings together around seven hundred community college presidents, deans, directors of workforce development, the occasional lobbyist and executives from industry. 

This year’s conference theme was “Workforce Remix.” Many of the large companies in attendance for speaking engagements were the companies that I normally see at events like this one because they are making significant investments in terms of the tools that they use in solving the skills gaps at their respective companies. They included: Siemens, Lincoln Electric, Northrup Grumman, Snap-on and Trane.
The AACC’s use of the word “Remix” as their theme got me thinking about the word that we, or at least I, probably over-use when referring to finding new ways to improve business processes, “Re-tool.”

How did the presentations focus on the remixing theme at the AACC conference? For starters, there is still a heavy emphasis on education, degrees and certifications in manufacturing as an industry, and, of course, on green energy, bio-science and cyber-security as areas of significant growth for schools.

For manufacturing, one of the key areas of discussion was 3D Printing and Additive Manufacturing. It was very helpful that not only did I have the opportunity to speak and join on a panel discussion which included Stratasys, America Makes, NIST and the NCATC, but we were also able to make the Strati, the zero-emission vehicle that was 3D printed at IMTS 2014, a central attraction at the conference. We also presented a new time-lapse video of the printing and assembly of the Strati to the AACC conference during the first day’s plenary session to very enthusiastic applause from the audience.

In the Q&A session after the 3D Printing and Additive Manufacturing panel discussion, many administrators had questions about curriculum, industry standards and credentials in the 3D Printing and Additive Manufacturing field. As it happens, Craig McAtee, the executive director of NCATC, the National Coalition of Advanced Technology Centers, was on the panel and has just put a very impressive 3D printing/additive program in place adjacent to the precision machining program at Cuyahoga Community College in Cleveland, Ohio, thanks to a grant from the Department of Labor (DOL).

Many of the schools represented in the audience had 3D printers in place that were being used as part of their machining program already, but curriculum, industry standards and certifications are still a challenge. In the coming months, we’ll be embarking on a project to develop a NIMS standard for 3D Printing/Additive Manufacturing, so stay tuned for that 2015 initiative.

The other notable remix about this conference was the high level of interest among administrators in strengthening their internship and apprenticeship programs with employers. Undoubtedly, this interest is coming from the increased availability of grant money from the DOL for apprenticeship programs and because the local industry partners of these schools are asking about jump-starting apprenticeship programs, as well as offering internships again (see above infographic).

If your company is ready to remix your HR recruiting strategies to re-tool your workforce, you should consider posting your open internships on AMT’s member-only job board at www.MTCareers.org

For more information about jump-starting your apprenticeship program, visit www.NIMSready.org. As always, for more frequent updates about Smartforce Development efforts, follow me @GregoryAJones on Twitter.