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Developing the workforce of the future

NextFlex has partnered with a number of public and private organizations to develop and deliver innovative middle-skills education and career path options that help to address the growing workforce shortage that currently exists at the technician and technologist level across the advanced manufacturing sector.

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These programs include Project Based Learning initiatives for high school students and “learn and earn” internships where students attend community college two days per week while engaging in paid work-based learning as part of an Associate Degree program. We are also working with a number of partners to include the other institutes within the Manufacturing USA community to develop a multi- skilled technician education pathway. At the university level, NextFlex is partnered with the Hacking for Defense platform to connect students with national security technical challenges.

By blending technology and entrepreneurship learning objectives with the familiarization of flexible hybrid electronics, the following NextFlex sponsored programs are exposing a broad range of students to the possibilities and potential career pathways into a wide variety of professions serving the advanced manufacturing industry.

FlexFactor™ is a 4-week entrepreneurship program that exposes high school students to the vast range of professional opportunity within advanced manufacturing. Small teams of students identify a human health or performance related problem, conceptualize a flexible hybrid electronic device to solve it, and package their concept into a business model canvas. FlexFactor’s project based learning model is integrated into an existing class, providing an alternative learning structure into which classroom learning objectives can be embedded.

FlexFactor kicks off with an all-day field trip to a local manufacturer that immerses students in entrepreneurship and advanced manufacturing. A follow-up field trip includes a tour of the participating Community College Campus and an overview of the college application process. To help students navigate the program, each team is paired with a local mentor who helps students achieve project milestones while promoting active engagement with the professional workforce. The program’s final deliverable is a five-minute “Shark Tank” style pitch during which each team presents their product and business model to a panel of representatives.

FlexFactor concludes with a class on post-course opportunities, including paid summer internships and financial counseling. Students who successfully complete the program earn 3 college credits.

FlexFactor is a 4-week entrepreneurship program that exposes high school students to the vast range of professional opportunity within advanced manufacturing. Small teams of students identify a human health or performance related problem, conceptualize a flexible hybrid electronic device to solve it, and package their concept into a business model canvas. FlexFactor’s project based learning model is integrated into an existing class, providing an alternative learning structure into which classroom learning objectives can be embedded.

FlexFactor kicks off with an all-day field trip to a local manufacturer that immerses students in entrepreneurship and advanced manufacturing. A follow-up field trip includes a tour of the participating Community College Campus and an overview of the college application process. To help students navigate the program, each team is paired with a local mentor who helps students achieve project milestones while promoting active engagement with the professional workforce. The program’s final deliverable is a five-minute Shark Tank-style pitch during which each team presents their product and business model to a panel of representatives.

FlexFactor concludes with a class on post-course opportunities, including paid summer internships and financial counseling. Students who successfully complete the program earn 3 college credits.

The Multi-Skilled Technician Initiative is a Community College Certificate Program designed to teach broad-based skills for technician-level employees interested in working within the advanced manufacturing sector of the US economy. This employer-sponsored program is creating a pipeline of qualified talent that is prepared to meet the workforce needs of FHE manufacturers.

The Multi-Skilled Technician certification program includes courses that address basic employability skills including budgeting, scheduling, planning, communication, sales, and project management. Advanced technical skill sets are also addressed and include safety, quality control, and production protocols while high level skills such as problem solving, team collaboration, and leadership round out the curriculum.

This program is being piloted at Evergreen Valley College and San Jose City College, before expanding throughout the California Community College system.

The Multi-Skilled Technician Initiative is a Community College Certificate Program designed to teach broad-based skills for technician-level employees interested in working within the advanced manufacturing sector of the US economy. This employer-sponsored program is creating a pipeline of qualified talent that is prepared to meet the workforce needs of FHE manufacturers.

The Multi-Skilled Technician certification program includes courses that address basic employability skills including budgeting, scheduling, planning, communication, sales, and project management. Advanced technical skill sets are also addressed and include safety, quality control, and production protocols while high level skills such as problem solving, team collaboration, and leadership round out the curriculum.

This program is being piloted at Evergreen Valley College and San Jose City College, before expanding throughout the California Community College system.

NextFlex is partnered with the Hacking for Defense (H4D) initiative to engage university students in advanced manufacturing related problems. The first pilot was conducted at Stanford University in the Spring of 2016 followed by a second pilot held at UC San Diego in the Fall of 2016. Over 50 students were involved, addressing 10 problem sets.

H4D harnesses “Lean Startup” principles to facilitate iterative solution discovery. Participants meet with government and commercial stakeholders as they encounter the “unknowns” and uncertainty of turning ideas into products. Ultimately, the H4D platform is designed to transition state and national level security, urban resilience, manufacturing and other related domain problems into deployable solutions that can be funded and implemented in response to rapidly evolving challenges.

NextFlex is partnered with the Hacking for Defense (H4D) initiative to engage university students in advanced manufacturing related problems. The first pilot was conducted at Stanford University in the Spring of 2016 followed by a second pilot held at UC San Diego in the Fall of 2016. Over 50 students were involved, addressing 10 problem sets.

H4D harnesses “Lean Startup” principles to facilitate iterative solution discovery. Participants meet with government and commercial stakeholders as they encounter the “unknowns” and uncertainty of turning ideas into products. Ultimately, the H4D platform is designed to transition state and national level security, urban resilience, manufacturing and other related domain problems into deployable solutions that can be funded and implemented in response to rapidly evolving challenges.

Meet some of NextFlex's MVPs

These power players boast stellar stats with backgrounds in manufacturing, government and education.

Azar Alizadeh, Ph.D.

Senior Material Scientist

GE Global Research
2017 NextFlex Fellow

Azar Alizadeh has worked at GE Global Research since 2000. During her tenure she has led numerous cross-functional teams for the NBMC, the US Army, and the AFRL. She has also been the key GE contact on the NBMC “Wearable paper-based microfluidic biomarker sensor patch” program and the co-Lead on the NextFlex Human Monitoring Systems Technical Working Group. Dr. Alizadeh holds a Ph.D. in Physics, has extensive experience in the field of nano-bio-manufacturing, has 45 peer reviewed publications and 13 US patents/patent applications.

Tracy Frost

Director, Manufacturing USA

DoD Institutes

Acting Director

DoD ManTech

Tracy Frost joined the Department of Defense (DoD) Office of Manufacturing and Industrial Base Policy (MIBP) in 2015. Ms. Frost supports the Director of Manufacturing Technology with the Defense-wide Manufacturing Science and Technology program, as well as the DoD Manufacturing Innovation Institutes. Previously, Ms. Frost served as the DoD SBIR/STTR Programs Administrator out of the DoD Office of Small Business Programs where she implemented innovative initiatives to assist the small business community transition viable technologies to the military and commercial marketplace.

Before joining OSBP, Ms. Frost managed the Office of Naval Research’s SBIR Program. She consistently increased the number of SBIR firms that transitioned into Phase III each year by increasing the involvement of Acquisition enabler science and technology programs. Prior to small business involvement, Ms. Frost served as a science and technology Program Manager for over 10 years in the areas of unmanned systems and ship logistics.

Tracy has a B.S. in Ocean Engineering from Florida Atlantic University and an M.S. in Engineering Management from George Washington University.

Dalen Keys, Ph.D.

New Business Development Manager

DuPont Electronics & Communications

Dalen is a new business development manager with DuPont in Wilmington, DE that loves creativity, whether applied to his job at DuPont or in his writing. Dr. Keys has been writing since 2008 and has authored four children’s picture books, two tween chapter books and numerous other works in various publications. He has a BS in chemistry from the University of North Alabama and a Ph.D. in chemistry from Rice University.

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