During a recent FlexFactor event hosted by a local advanced manufacturing company, a high school student in the visiting class asked, “What do I need to learn to work here one day?” A company executive answered, “If you go to a local community or technical college, learn about electrical, mechanical, or materials engineering, I’ll hire you for $50,000 a year the day you graduate…. and I need to hire about 40 people like that next year.” The following week, we took the class to a local college. Nearly all the students signed up. In two or three years, these students may graduate high school and community college at the same time and will be ready for that job. None will have any college debt. After a few years of experience, many will continue to fulfill operations, engineering, sales, marketing, finance, HR, or other professional roles — and they will all have a foundation in what makes the advance manufacturing sector tick and they will all have jobs that matter.
– Brynt Parmeter, NextFlex Director of Workforce Development Education and Training
This example highlights what is so special about FlexFactor and explains why it is expanding so quickly across the United States. Young people are starved for experiences that help them see their future. Once they’re given a glimpse of what that might look like, they want to understand what they need to do to make that future come true. Then they simply need the confidence and belief in themselves to make the journey.
This is what the FlexFactor experience gives them.
FlexFactor challenges students to work in teams to identify a real-world problem, conceptualize an advanced hardware solution, and build a business model around it. At the end of the program, students pitch their ideas to a professional panel.
Through direct industry engagement with future-focused companies and high-performance workplaces, FlexFactor brings real-world experiences to students, allowing them to see how advanced materials and electronic devices combine to create innovative solutions for a diverse range of problems. In addition, students engage with the education pathways at local colleges and universities that will help them gain the knowledge and skills needed in order to join the workforce of the future.
The program’s agile framework allows it to embed in any classroom and in a way that’s very easy for the classroom teacher. It is applicable across a wide range of subject areas, including English, economics, fashion design, robotics, biology, engineering design, and many others, making any classroom a career technical education classroom.
The program is structured in a way that is appealing and fun, using a student-led learning approach that allows participants to address real-world problems that hold meaning for them, everything from cancer treatment and infant mortality to waste management and athletic performance.
The conceptualized hardware solutions developed by students feature an array of revolutionary technologies including advanced functional fabrics, Internet of Things devices, cloud technology, augmented reality, Flexible Hybrid Electronics, and more.
What started as a pilot program in San Jose with eight students in the fall of 2016 has expanded throughout Silicon Valley and has engaged over 2,500 students.
In 2018, FlexFactor was successfully adopted in the Cleveland, Ohio area within the Lorain County Community College ecosystem and in early 2019, FlexFactor will debut in the Huntsville- Madison County, Alabama area through a strategic partnership grant from Boeing.
It takes less than a semester to license and launch FlexFactor in new geographic areas with the NextFlex staff assisting and mentoring the adopting groups – companies, colleges, and schools – every step along the way.