Colleges Play Key Role in Manufacturing Partnerships

By AACC Staff

Learn more about the Investing in Manufacturing Communities Partnership initiative.

This excerpted article, by Ellie Ashford, originally appeared at Community College Daily.

Community colleges across the country are strengthening ties with employers, industry groups and workforce organizations through the U.S. Department of Commerce’s Investing in Manufacturing Communities Partnership (IMCP) initiative.

Twelve partnerships were approved for the IMCP designation in 2014, and Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker announced another 12 last July for the program’s second round. Each partnership represents a geographic region and includes one or more community colleges.

The IMCP designation doesn’t come with any federal funding. But it does encourage communities to develop comprehensive economic development strategies to strengthen their competitive edge in attracting manufacturing and supply chain investments and also gives the partners a priority when they apply for funding from federal agencies.

Demand in shipbuilding

Bishop State Community College (BSCC), which is part of Partners for Growth in Southwest Alabama Manufacturing Community, designated under the first round of the IMCP program, is strengthening instruction in the trades to meet the needs of the area’s growing aerospace and shipbuilding industries. A new $600-million Airbus manufacturing plant expected to open later this year in Mobile will bring more than 1,000 jobs to the region.

Other partners include Faulkner State Community College, University of South Alabama, Southwest Alabama Workforce Development Council, Alabama Technology Network, Central Gulf Industrial Alliance, Alabama State Port Authority and many others.

Since the Southwest Alabama partnership received the IMCP designation by the Commerce Department’s Economic Development Administration, BSCC has taken part in a series of meetings with employers to look at their workforce needs, said Kathy Thompson, dean of technical education and workforce development.

As a result, the college agreed to create an associate degree in advanced manufacturing, Thompson said, as well as three short-term stackable certificates.

A new certificate for logistics operator specialists was developed in collaboration with logistics companies that serve the maritime and aviation industries. It will prepare people for entry-level freight-moving jobs at Airbus, Austal USA – an Australian shipbuilding company that employees more than 4,000 people building vessels for the U.S. Navy – and many smaller logistics companies in the area.

Another new short-term certificate was created in technology design, which qualifies people for entry-level positions working with mechanical engineers at aviation companies.

Thompson describes workers who earn the third new certificate, in “ship fitting,” as “carpenters who work with steel.” These workers need to know how to read a blueprint and determine the pieces of steel that need to be cut and laid out. They are qualified for jobs with Austal, BAE Systems’ ship repair business in Mobile, and Ingalls Shipbuilding.

Continue reading this article at Community College Daily.

AACC Staff

contributed to this report.

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