Volume 22, No. 2, 2nd Quarter, 2021
From the Director ...

Craig McAtee, NCATC CEO and Executive Director
NCATC Friends and Colleagues,

The COVID-19 pandemic has stripped millions of Americans of their jobs. As of April, the economy was still down 4 million jobs compared to February of last year. At the same time, we are seeing unprecedented labor shortages, with 8.1 million jobs open and unfilled across the country. Markets that saw explosive growth because of the pandemic (e.g., cybersecurity) are struggling to maintain the levels of innovation needed to continue that trend because they can’t find the right talent.

According to the Harvard Business Review, one of the biggest reasons for the skills gap is that the U.S. education system has not been held accountable for ensuring students are equipped with the skills and abilities necessary to succeed in careers that provide financial stability.

One cause of the problem may be that the United States is one of the only countries in the world where vocational training (now commonly referred to as Career and Technical Education - CTE) still carries a stigma. Germany, Austria, and Switzerland have long seen vocational education as a pathway to the middle class and an effective means of providing students with the skills they’ll need to further their careers. In contrast, in America, two-thirds (65%) of all open jobs still require a bachelor’s or associate degree. Nearly two-thirds (61%) of business and HR leaders admit to tossing out resumes that lack four-year degrees, even if the applicants are qualified. This eliminates career paths for millions of Americans even though four-year degrees are not necessary for success in many of today’s open jobs.

The gap between the educational requirements employers impose on job seekers and the skills that jobs actually require has been called “degree inflation.” According to Burning Glass, degree inflation impacts a wide range of job sectors but is most acute in manufacturing, retail trade, accommodation and food services, and health care and social assistance.

Fortunately, attitudes are changing. Since the beginning of the pandemic, job postings for entry-level positions that require a bachelor’s degree have fallen by 45%, suggesting that employers are increasingly placing more emphasis on skills and experience in the real world than on academic credentials.

Historically we have expected our higher education system to provide talent for the workplace, and this will continue to be true in the future. However, education cannot do it alone. In building a strong workforce, employers and higher education institutions both have essential roles to play. If employers are not engaged in 21st-century workforce development, they are part of the problem.

What steps should be taken to better align education to the realities of the workplace? Here are some suggestions.

Hiring managers should realize that many traditional education paths are no longer the standard:

  • Consider how many of your open roles really require a college degree. Start by defining what skills are needed and determine whether those skills can be developed through alternate pathways.

  • Where possible, adjust job requirements and descriptions to accommodate a variety of educational pathways. Consider having a third-party review open job descriptions to ensure the language does not discourage applicants from nontraditional backgrounds.

  • Don’t overlook prospective employees who have pursued a different learning path. When those people are not fairly considered, opportunities to enhance diversity, equity, and inclusion are lost.

  • Offer opportunities for training and certificate programs to help upskill employees.

  • A SUGGESTION BASED ON SUCCESS: Deconstruct technical job postings into the necessary knowledge, skills, and abilities (KSA) and work with K-16 education and workforce leaders and faculty to crosswalk, align, and refine curriculum outcomes to match. Work with educators in developing Business and Industry Leadership Teams (BILT) to take the place of conventional advisory committees.

Higher education institutions should collaborate with employers in aligning educational offerings to the skills needed on the job. Specific action items would include:

  • Create a stronger dialogue between businesses and education. (The BILT Model for success above applies here.)

  • Rather than focusing on the “time-based” two- or four-year degrees and credentials, help students identify and more easily demonstrate to employers what job-ready skills they’ve developed.

  • Work with your institution’s employer base to connect industry-recognized credentials (NIMS, MSSC, AWS, NC3, etc.) to curriculum outcomes. (These will benefit both customers of education and workforce development – the employers and the students.)

NCATC continues to be part of the Manufacturing Industry Recovery Panel, which will help shape the Biden Administration’s “Made in All of America” initiative and related policies through meetings with the Department of Commerce and Congressional leadership. Policy recommendations will include strategies for supporting diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) such as:

  • Expanding apprenticeships and other work-based learning,

  • Investing in digital upskilling to support advances in high-tech manufacturing,

  • Supporting more agile postsecondary education for a more agile manufacturing workplace,

  • Creating a 21st Century Extension Partnership to align workforce and economic development strategies, and

  • Establishing a White House Interagency Sub Taskforce on Skills for an Inclusive Economic Recovery.

Consistent with NSC’s Inclusive Economic Recovery framework, NCATC wants to help ensure these initiatives address:

  • The disproportionate impact of the economic crisis on workers of color; immigrants, and workers with a high school diploma or less;

  • The essential role of businesses who hire locally and invest in their people but need policymakers to be their partners; and

  • The moral and economic imperative to dismantle structural racism in workforce education and training.

We are aware that skills training alone will not ensure an inclusive recovery, but it must be part of our nation’s federal policy response. The time is NOW to get involved in federal, state, and local policies that will set priorities and funding for the future of work.

NCATC’s 2021 Webinar Series has focused on access, diversity, equity, and inclusion (ADEI) in partnership with both ACTE and NSC. You can find the first two webinar recordings on the NCATC website.

As always, we encourage you to stay regularly connected and up to date on all ATC and CTE-related activities and guidance via the weekly updated NCATC website, social media (LinkedIn, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, etc.), and quarterly e-newsletters like this one.
In This Issue

  • The Power of the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) and Data Analytics
  • Building Partnerships to Serve Rural Communities
  • Take-Home Learning Modules Are a Model for Student Success
  • School, Business Partnership Merges Skill with Heart
  • Pre-apprenticeship Program Provides Much Needed Foundation for Skilled Trades Careers
  • TC Energy and BridgeValley Community and Technical College Partner in Building Future Workforce
  • Welcome, New Strategic Partners and Members
The Power of the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) and Data Analytics

David M. Aguirre, Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) Technologist, Gateway Technical College
Each industrial revolution is fueled by one of the most powerful advancements of a given generation. The first industrial revolution was driven by the power of steam. The second industrial revolution was sparked by the harnessing of electricity. The third industrial revolution was forged by robotics and the power of computing. Now the fourth industrial revolution, also known as Industry 4.0, is driven by data using the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT). Gateway Technical College wants its students to understand the importance of data as they enter the future workforce and to be able to showcase Industry 4.0 manufacturing in their communities so people understand how it is evolving. To accomplish these objectives Gateway has put in place hardware and software capable of unifying, connecting, and providing full visibility into the advanced manufacturing labs found at the Integrated Manufacturing and Engineering Technology (iMET) Center. The IIoT platform used at the iMET Center to achieve these objectives is MT-LINKi by Fanuc (screen shot below).
Our instructors use MT-LINKi to teach data-infused advanced manufacturing. Students learn about program cycle times and process control, learn to track history and observe trends, and learn techniques for improving efficiency and preventing and predicting downtime. With MT-LINKi, students learn the amazing potential of data provided by the IIoT. MT-LINKi is a true, scalable IIoT platform that provides shop floor visibility by connecting physical systems to the cyber world. Students learn about data collection, monitoring, and virtualization, and about ways to improve efficiency.

The real advantage of this platform is that it does not limit users to only Fanuc devices. Fanuc realizes that full implementation of Industry 4.0 requires that all doors to data be open and all barriers eliminated. Fanuc created this platform to work with not only its own protocols but with two of the most open and universal communication protocols used for the advancement of Industry 4.0: OPC UA and MTConnect. This open architecture allows us to connect existing lab equipment from providers such as Haas, Bridgeport, Mazak, Mitsubishi, and Lincoln Electric.

Under the hood, MT-LINKi uses MongoDB, a database platform that is used in our data analytics associate degree program. The data collected on our shop floor and in our scaled smart factory laboratory is directly used by students in the degree program to learn about data structure, JSON-like schemas, data shaping, and data analysis. Our students then learn how to transform complex raw data into visually appealing, easy-to-digest dashboards that provide insights into the manufacturing process. Students take a deep-dive into big data while learning to filter the good from the bad, and use that data to resolve real-world problems.

To provide immediate visibility on the iMET shop floor or in the smart factory lab, strategically placed QR codes with embedded NFC chips direct students, faculty, and staff to MT-LINKi. Although our server is hosted internally, anyone with the correct credentials can view our cyber-physical shop floor from anywhere in the world.

The picture below shows the actual lab layout on the left and the digital lab layout on the right. Students access the digital lab layout using QR codes located near the lab area. In the digital lab, the added operational colors (green in the picture) indicate the status of each monitored machine. 
Industry 4.0 is here at Gateway and we will continue to move forward with MT-LINKi as our IIoT platform along with technologies such as artificial intelligence, virtual and augmented reality, 5G, digital twins, autonomous systems, and edge computing. When these technologies are connected together, the possibilities are endless, and so are the career opportunities for students who possess skills and knowledge in advanced manufacturing and data analytics.

For more information, contact the author at Aguirred@gtc.edu.
Building Partnerships to Serve Rural Communities
Bismarck State College (BSC) in Bismarck, North Dakota, is working with the North Dakota Rural Water Systems Association (NDRWSA) to offer an online Water Systems Operations Specialist Apprenticeship program. Water and wastewater systems operations specialists play a vital role in giving communities access to clean drinking water. However, over the next decade, the water sector is expected to lose 30 to 50 percent of the workforce to retirement.
“Knowledgeable employees are critical to water utilities. This apprenticeship program provides a structured path to begin a successful career in the industry,” says Erik Volk, NDRWSA executive director.
The two-year curriculum is composed of non-credit courses from BSC in addition to on-the-job training, related instruction, and paid work experience. Furthermore, the program has a flexible schedule, with online courses offered in a format that allows individuals to maintain a full-time work schedule and complete courses at the same time. There is also an opportunity to have the cost of the program reimbursed by the NDRWSA upon completion.
“The curriculum is a self-paced, block-style outline with lectures, interactive animations, and self-checks. The courses are designed to assist new operators with licensing exams and possible career advancement,” says BSC National Energy Center of Excellence Department Chair Kyren Miller.

This apprenticeship program, approved by the National Rural Water Association, is ideal for someone newly hired or currently working in the water industry, as courses count toward required professional development hours. Participants earn continuing education credits (CEC) from the North Dakota Department of Environmental Quality. The number of credits is determined by the courses taken.
Take-Home Learning Modules Are a Model for Student Success
At Quinsigamond Community College (QCC), hands-on learning is an integral part of student success. In the advanced manufacturing field, this type of learning is invaluable to students who must train on specific tools and equipment to meet industry standard credentialing.

In March 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic changed the scope of education and hands-on learning. However, when QCC transitioned to remote instruction, through the brainstorming of faculty and staff, this vital aspect of higher education remained intact, as take-home learning modules became the new norm.

In the college’s advanced manufacturing courses, hands-on learning at home called for real ingenuity, as sophisticated tools are required for students to learn the skills needed in the industries they will be entering. QCC’s quality manufacturing course, in particular, required specific tools and instruments. While this proved challenging, faculty and staff developed strategies for delivering this critical mode of learning.

QCC’s manufacturing faculty recognized that the only way to continue this type of instruction was to utilize the Snap On/Starrett Precision Measuring Instrumentation (PMI) Master Kit, a $35,000 investment made by the college for its advanced manufacturing lab. During the first week of classes, ten learning modules were prepared for students.

“These teaching materials are essential for our quality course. Working with our incredible lab managers, we painstakingly separated all the tools from the master kit and organized them into individual kits for the students,” said Associate Professor of Manufacturing Technology Lee Duerden. “They were placed in hard attaché-style cases with foam packaging to protect each and every precision instrument.”
To pick up their kits, students drove to the lab, where the prepared materials were placed in their trunks in a safe and contact-free way.

“Everything has gone relatively smoothly, from picking up the kit to using it in class. Everything in the kit is in great condition, and is excellent to use,” said QCC student Brian Boland. “Being able to take this class now helps, so that I won't have to extend my graduation date an extra semester because of prerequisites.”

The hands-on tools provided a way for students to continue their education uninterrupted, and facilitated the process of taking exams and becoming NC3 certified. The NC3 PMI certification process includes six exams that students are able to take remotely thanks to the hands-on learning systems.

“The exams are proctored by me through Zoom,” Professor Duerden said. “NC3 has a certification site that students log into, and once they have completed the curriculum material and the lab exercises, I provide access to the exam. The exam consists of multiple-choice questions and lab activities. The equipment for each exam is part of the kit we supplied.”

Other programs such as electronics engineering also continued with hands-on learning remotely, thanks to Professor of Electronics Engineering Technology James Heffernan and Electronic Technician Robert Russell, who put together take-home learning modules for their electronics students.

While this learning modality is temporary, it is part of QCC’s efforts to continue offering and expanding national credentials during QCC’s remote instruction phase.
School, Business Partnership Merges Skill with Heart
As a high school precision CNC machining instructor at Polaris Career Center in Middleburg Heights, Ohio, Tony Sambunjak has had a major impact on his students and the manufacturing workforce in Northeast Ohio. During his 25 years as a teacher, he has prepared hundreds of students for high-paying in-demand careers and, most importantly, taught his students the value of integrity, dependability, and perseverance.
Tony’s teaching methods have not gone unnoticed. His students have won many skills competitions at the regional, state, and national levels, and he has been the recipient of multiple teaching awards. In addition, he has made business partnerships a central focus of his program. Under his leadership, his employer partners have offered real-world learning experiences for students, including mock interviews, field trips, student employment, and a new initiative established this school year. Last summer, Tony received unexpected news: He has an aggressive form of brain cancer. Since then, he has been receiving treatments while continuing to teach. He has not skipped a beat. He continues to engage his students with the same passion, enthusiasm, and sense of humor he’s always had. In addition, one of his key employer partners, Swagelok, stepped in to help him and his students when they needed it most. They committed to providing PAID daytime internships for students at both their Strongsville and Solon facilities, thus helping to ease the burden on Tony.
Under the current arrangement, Polaris seniors work two or four days a week during the day at Swagelok. Juniors are currently interviewing for summer internship experiences. “Thanks to our partners at Swagelok, our students are now able to get quick and easy access to the real-world, and it’s working. They’re grasping concepts earlier. I’m so happy these students are on the path to career success,” says Tony.
The outpouring for Tony has been amazing. Each day staff members, community partners, business associates, and students (both current and former) express well-wishes from near and far. This is a testament to the hundreds of lives Tony has helped change for the better. 
Pre-apprenticeship Program Provides Much Needed Foundation for Skilled Trades Careers
A well-paying career in manufacturing or the skilled trades starts at the beginning, with the right training, both in the classroom and on the job. Employers are looking for people who can fill abundant opportunities, but they are looking for individuals with the skill and aptitude to be successful. That’s where Macomb Community College’s MAP+ Industrial Readiness Program was such a success!

The Michigan Apprenticeship Program Plus (MAP+) Industrial Readiness Program, scheduled to end in September 2021, was designed to give students a jump-start on a successful career with a foundational education in manufacturing or the skilled trades. Students were able to quickly earn Macomb’s Industrial Readiness Certificate and were made ready for an apprenticeship or direct entry-level hire in advanced manufacturing or construction. The program was free for selected students through funding provided by an American Apprenticeship Initiative grant issued by the U.S. Department of Labor. The nine credit hours could also be used towards a skill-specific certificate and/or an associate degree.

As of March 31, 2021, MAP+ program registered 375 apprentices from 41 total apprenticeship programs representing 41 total employers. “The program was a huge success for Macomb Community College and the community as a whole,” says Donald Hutchison, Dean of Engineering and Advanced Technology at the college. “The demand for skilled personnel is significant right now, and our program seeks to provide talent where it is needed.”

The MAP+ Industrial Readiness program consists of four classes: mathematics, drafting, industrial safety, and trade-related preparation. A highlight of the program is that students participate in success seminars that focus on academic and workplace skills and interview preparation. Students meet with employers hiring for opportunities in manufacturing and skilled trades at the end of each cohort.
“It is now widely recognized that there is a shortage of employees in the skilled trades, in particular in the manufacturing industry. There are endless job opportunities that will be readily available as baby boomers continue to retire,” said Krista Barr, director of employee development, TK Mold & Engineering, Inc. “Being a MAP+ program student sets them apart from someone else who just applies at our company with no prior experience. Employers love to see experience, and the MAP+ program provides a great starting point.”

Emily Reid, 18, of Clinton Township, didn’t know exactly where she wanted to start after graduating Fraser High School. As a member of the robotics team at Fraser she knew she liked manufacturing but didn’t have a set path or any real experience. Her teachers highly recommended the Industrial Readiness program so she could learn more about the different specialties.

“This is a great next step if you’re interested in industrial technology but not sure where you want to go and not ready to jump into a degree,” said Emily. “It’s perfect for those who don’t know where they want to go specifically but want to explore the possibilities.”

For more information, see the flyer here.
TC Energy and BridgeValley Community and Technical College Partner in Building Future Workforce
BridgeValley Community and Technical College (BridgeValley) and TC Energy are partnering to create a cooperative education (co-op) program designed to provide hands-on experience and build future workforce capabilities amongst students enrolled in the Instrumentation, Measurement, and Controls (IMC) Program.

The co-op program will focus on the technical disciplines of:
  • Measurement and Regulation (M&R)
  • Electrical and Instrumentation (E&I)
  • Corrosion
  • Pipeline

This partnership will provide classroom training opportunities and on-the-job experiences through co-op roles at TC Energy. The program will kick-off in the summer of 2022 for students entering their second year of the three-year program.
“We look forward to welcoming BridgeValley students to the co-op program,” says Kelly Frye-Valerio, Manager US Gas Operations Technical Development. This is a great opportunity to lend our expertise and help students apply what they’ve learned in the classroom to a practical workplace setting. We’re also excited to learn from these students and embrace their new ideas as we move forward together in our journey to building a sustainable energy future.”

In addition to on-the-job technical experiences, students will be exposed to other parts of the business, learning about the safety, operational, commercial, financial, technological and regulatory aspects of the industry. 

“The goal of this program is to provide students with an enriching learning experience that improves their knowledge, skills, and abilities while creating a pipeline of diverse talent for future roles at TC Energy,” says Jeff Wyco, VP Workforce Development & ATC Operations. “The program’s blended FlexSchedule model will allow students to complete their course requirements online while gaining valuable work experience.”
This partnership was inspired by BridgeValley’s involvement in the West Virginia Community and Technical College System (WVCTCS). Working with representatives from the natural gas industry, the WVCTCS identified the need to further develop technician skills within energy. In addition to this beneficial partnership with TC Energy, BridgeValley has also started the Instrumentation, Measurement, and Controls (IMC) Program. The IMC Program offers an Associate in Applied Science (AAS) Degree and has received over $200,000 of equipment donations from the local industry. Students can register now to begin the program in the Fall 2021 semester. For more information on this program, contact ken.haynes@bridgevalley.edu.

About BridgeValley Community and Technical College
BridgeValley Community and Technical College promotes student success, prepares a skilled workforce, and builds tomorrow’s leaders by providing access to quality higher education. BridgeValley will be the college of opportunity for a diverse learner population, offering leading-edge technology, innovative ideas, and dynamic service to our students and our communities. BridgeValley serves a six-county region including Fayette, Raleigh, Nicholas, Clay, Putnam, and Kanawha Counties. The college operates two campuses in Montgomery and South Charleston, along with the addition of the new Advanced Technology Center. BridgeValley is a public institution of higher education independently accredited by the Higher Learning Commission of the North Central Association of Schools and Colleges and a member of the Community and Technical College System of West Virginia.

About TC Energy
We are a vital part of everyday life—delivering the energy millions of people rely on to power their lives in a sustainable way. Thanks to a safe, reliable network of natural gas and crude oil pipelines, along with power generation and storage facilities, wherever life happens—we’re there. Guided by our core values of safety, responsibility, collaboration, and integrity, our 7,500 people make a positive difference in the communities where we operate across Canada, the United States, and Mexico.
Welcome, New Strategic Partners and Members
New Strategic Partners (since January 1, 2021)
New Education Members (since January 1, 2021)
New CTE High School Membership Initiative