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Manufacturing Tech Ed Centers - Coming to a College Near You

Category: Smartforce By: Kathy Webster, Managing Editor Jul 22, 2021

Robotic welding, 3D printing, and smart wireless communication systems are just a few of the latest classes students can take in new advanced manufacturing education centers popping up across the country.

What is an Advanced Technology Center?
An Advanced Technology Center, sometimes called an Advanced Manufacturing Center or a Manufacturing Technology Education Center, is a community-based or regional education and workforce development facility that provides career and technical education by way of hands-on learning, often coupled with virtual- and augmented-reality experiences, about the machinery, technology, devices, and digital equipment that U.S. companies use in their manufacturing processes to be more productive, innovative, and globally competitive.

The curriculum ranges from computer numerical controlled (CNC) machining (subtractive manufacturing), 3D printing (additive manufacturing), computer aided design and computer aided manufacturing (CAD/CAM), automation and robotic integration, mechatronics, and ultra-precise dimensional measurement.

Artificial intelligence, machine learning, and data analytics, spurred on by connected devices or the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT), are also technologies taught. Students can be classified as post-secondary students, apprentices, or incumbent workers who are attending classes for specific re-skilling or upskilling.

Students can earn degrees, certificates, industry-recognized credentials, and micro-credentials in specific curriculum and technology areas. Graduates go on to career pathways in aerospace, defense, biomedical technology, job shops and broader manufacturing, mechanical and industrial technology, and engineering fields.


Rewarding Careers
“It is very encouraging to see new investment in technical curricula for advanced manufacturing as it leads to careers that are incredibly rewarding – both on a personal level and, of course, financially,” says Greg Jones, Vice President of Smartforce Development at AMT (The Association For Manufacturing Technology), which owns and operates IMTS (The International Manufacturing Technology Show). Jones leads the Smartforce Student Summit event at IMTS, which was re-imagined as the Smartforce Career & Education Experience during the pandemic and included engaging online content fto serve as a launch point for students to explore the manufacturing technology classroom of the future.

Innovation and Growth
Not only will these investments ensure a talented workforce is available to support local manufacturing technology businesses, they will also spur and attract new businesses. “When you make things, often you iterate, creating a culture of innovation,” says Jones “Many in advanced manufacturing go on to become entrepreneurs, advance their careers toward leadership or research and development, and even apply their skills to other industries.”

Broad Spectrum of Industries
Advanced manufacturing touches a wide realm of growing industries that includes electric and autonomous vehicles, deep-space exploration, next-generation medical implants and devices, new energy-saving construction techniques, and more.

New advanced manufacturing technology centers are underway at:

Industrial Technologies Offer Something for Everyone
“These are significant initiatives. They are employing a strategy for staying ahead of the skills gap in advanced manufacturing in this critical period coming out of the pandemic,” says Jones. “There is a need to educate, upskill, and reskill individuals, especially in areas of new, transformative technologies like additive manufacturing, artificial intelligence with a focus on machine learning, augmented reality, automation and robotics, digital twins, and generative design.”

The facilities will also offer courses on and certificates in mechatronics, computer aided design (CAD), computer numerical controlled (CNC) machining, CNC automation cells, hydraulics and pneumatics, welding simulators, computer networking, and precision machining.

Students from Chicago Public Schools at the IMTS 2018 Smartforce Student Summit experiment with a robot built by FIRSTâ„¢ Team 135, from Penn High School in Mishawaka, Ind.

Wanted: Skills!
“Even though manufacturing was recognized as an essential industry during the pandemic, schools were in various states of being open. As a result, the skills gap widened in advanced manufacturing,” says Jones.

As of May 2021, the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported more than 9.3 million open jobs in the United States, and 814,000 of those jobs were in manufacturing – an all-time record. “These new school projects are a good first step toward filling the employment gap,” says Jones. “I anticipate that we will see further investment in new ATCs around the country because addressing the skilled workforce crisis is a top priority for government, businesses, schools, and workers.”

Explore Galore!
To gain ideas about the emerging technologies and exciting careers in advanced manufacturing, visit

Watch Now! The Show - Smartforce Student Summit
About the Author

As AMT’s Managing Editor, Kathy seeks out connections, builds relationships, and strives to learn more about the people of the manufacturing industry. A writer and editor with more than 25 years of experience on the topics of manufacturing, technology, architecture, art, and parenting, Kathy is an avid listener who is deeply curious.

Kathy is particularly interested in autonomous vehicles. Since she was a member of Team ENSCO in the 2004 and 2005 DARPA Grand Challenge, she’s been enthralled with the progress of self-driving vehicles.

When she’s not writing or mingling at manufacturing industry events, Kathy is spending time with her husband and four children creating art, visiting museums, hiking, traveling, and entertaining friends and family. She does try to sneak in reading, yoga, Sudoku, and long walks with her dog, Meadow.

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