Programs and Partnerships Help Colleges Prep for Industry 4.0

While the College of Lake County can claim to have one of the newest ATCs in the country, it’s among a growing number of community colleges that have invested in such facilities.

The impetus, according to Craig McAtee, CEO and executive director of the National Coalition of Advanced Technology Centers, is rooted in two related trends. The first involves a shortage in the manufacturing workforce, which Deloitte has estimated could reach more than 2 million unfilled jobs by 2030, while the second has to do with what manufacturers call the “fourth industrial revolution.”

“Because manufacturing is evolving so fast, with new technologies coming out all the time, companies are looking to these institutions to ensure the workforce is keeping up,” says McAtee. Industry 4.0, he explains, describes the emergent reliance within manufacturing on smart, connected technologies such as robotics, the Internet of Things and cloud computing.

“When we use the word advanced, that’s always changing,” McAtee notes. “Every week, there’s something new to add, especially in the world of technology and manufacturing.”

LEARN MORE: Why university libraries evolve to support future needs.

The NCATC works with colleges in areas where manufacturing is critical to the economy to help them develop curricula and degree programs to entice students to pursue careers in the field. It provided technical assistance to CLC as it developed plans for its ATC, and it’s done the same for many others through its Creating Connections in Manufacturing Communities with Community Colleges program, which it runs in partnership with the American Association of Community Colleges.

One of those institutions is Cuyahoga Community College in Cleveland, where Ray Nejadfard is interim vice president of its Manufacturing Technology Center of Excellence. Between that facility and the nearby Tri-C Advanced Technology Training Center, the college’s students have access to nearly every technology deployed in modern manufacturing.

“These people aren’t going to fix your laptop, but they’ll definitely know how to connect the equipment on the shop floor or develop the automation to make it run,” Nejadfard says. Tri-C programs include specialized training in areas like precision machining, 3D printing and mechatronics engineering, and offer students everything from noncredit certificates to associate degrees.

Nejadfard says Tri-C has partnered with more than 30 companies in Northeast Ohio to ensure its manufacturing curriculum meets the community’s needs. “What we really want is for every student we develop to leave here fully prepared for a job in smart manufacturing.”


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