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Developing the Workforce of the Future: Roundtable Discussion Recap

As a national Manufacturing Innovation Institute, NextFlex is not only chartered to advance the manufacturability of flexible hybrid electronics but also to help create the workforce of the future. Workforce development is an issue of national concern, and is headed toward a crisis. A recent Deloitte report indicates that in the US, manufacturing will reach a staggering shortfall of 2.1 million jobs by 2030. As the technology innovation cycle has tightened, so too must the recruitment and training process. To effectively close the skills gap and prepare technicians for careers in advanced manufacturing, it will be necessary to apply an innovative mindset to the recruitment and training process. As part of NextFlex’s commitment to build a platform for workforce development, thought leadership, and discussion, we recently hosted a roundtable focused specifically on the relationship between STEM learning and industry working together to create the workforce of the future.

This roundtable focused specifically on the Advanced Manufacturing Technology (AMT) program at Evergreen Valley College as an example of a partnership between higher education and industry that is yielding ready results. The AMT program is funded through a National Science Foundation Advanced Technology Education grant. Panelists included Assemblymember Ash Kalra, 27th District California State Assembly; Dr. Maniphone Dickerson, Dean of Business & Workforce Development at Evergreen Valley College; Ms. Kelli Dutra, Manufacturing Director at CAES; and Mr. Michael Rizo, Advanced Manufacturing Technology student and CAES intern. Opening remarks were provided by Dr. Tammeil Gilkerson, President of Evergreen Valley College. Discussion centered on how each stakeholder – government, higher education, and industry – could contribute and work collaboratively to help effect change in the recruitment and training process for the next generation of advanced manufacturing technicians.

What makes the AMT program unique as compared to other technician training pathways is the depth of the partnerships that are driving the hands-on and applied learning provided to the students. By building a foundation in theoretical and applied learning, students graduate workforce-ready. As a founding industry partner, Cobham Advanced Electronic Solutions (CAES), provides employee that serve as adjunct professors as well as donates equipment to ensure that students are gaining the skills that employers need. In fact, Ms. Dutra shared, “This is the best candidate pool that we have had because they have actually been trained in the exact work that we are doing here at CAES.”

Building the workforce of the future will require more than just education and industry partnerships.  Assemblymember Kalra, himself a graduate of the California community college system, emphasized the need for legislative and monetary support for programs like the AMT program:

“The state workforce board is going to create and expand industry based high-road partnership specifically connected with community college programs. Our legislature right now sees the need, the wisdom and the importance of our community college system partnering with the private sector to really prepare the California workforce for the next 10, 20, 30 years.”

By encouraging discussions like these and sharing innovative ideas in workforce development, NextFlex hopes to accelerate the recruitment and training cycle to match the pace of technology development.  To watch the recording of this roundtable, please visit We then invite you to join the discussion by engaging with us on LinkedIn at NextFlex Learning Portfolio.