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The National FlexFactor® Expansion Continues with a Day of Training

By Christina Moore, National FlexFactor Program Manager

The NextFlex Workforce Development Team partnered with Lorain County Community College’s FlexFactor Team to host a FlexFactor Program Manager orientation for adopting colleges from across the United States. Representatives from El Camino College in Los Angeles, CA; Drake State Community & Technical College and Calhoun Community College in Huntsville, AL; Midlands Technical College in Columbia, SC; and Nunez Community College in Chalmette, LA, attended this essential event. The purpose of the experience was to familiarize them with the structure and goals of the FlexFactor program and coordinate a pilot program in their respective geographic areas.

FlexFactor is a project-based learning program in which student teams identify a problem they want to solve, conceptualize a hardware product to address the problem, build a business model around the device, and pitch it to a “Shark Tank-esque” panel consisting of industry members, representatives from colleges, and school administrators. During the immersive program students conduct seven linked activities in an experiential and student-led approach to learning. Program touchpoints are designed to bring the STEM sector to life, providing first-hand experiences that position subjects like statistics, geometry, chemistry, and others within contexts that matter to students. Through the project-based learning framework, the program illuminates how STEM skills help solve real-world problems from athletic performance to the opioid epidemic, and more.

In addition to sparking interest in technology, FlexFactor teaches the deep creativity, analytical thinking, and cognitive flexibility companies seek in their employees. By capturing enthusiasm and the joy of learning, FlexFactor engages a broad and diverse group of students with the education pathways that lead to careers in the advanced manufacturing sector. While the activity associated with engaging and orienting the next generation of talent through FlexFactor will largely take place at the regional ecosystem level, sustained success will require a national framework to amplify and replicate the successes of individual communities. NextFlex is committed to helping to grow and foster this national framework by providing support to regional ecosystems adopting the FlexFactor program.

The first step in familiarizing a new geographic ecosystem in the adoption process consists of the Program Manager Orientation, an immersive 2-day event that helps new program managers understand how the program works with the critical partners to provide students with the first-hand experiences that transform uninspired, uninterested students into the innovators and entrepreneurs who will lead the advanced manufacturing sector of the future. Through several activities, new program managers learn how the pieces of the program link together – from the kick-off, to the Industry Day where students visit a local manufacturer, to the College Day where students visit a college campus and have a chance to visualize themselves as college students, to the final pitches where the students present their projects to a mentor panel. During the Orientation new program managers also get to observe FlexFactor activities, to see how they work and get feedback on the impact FlexFactor has on students, teachers, Colleges, and industry partners.

The second step of the adoption processes focuses on training and implementation, where FlexFactor National Trainers help adopting Program Managers coordinate and deliver a pilot FlexFactor program in their home ecosystem. This experience pulls it all together for the local Program Mangers, and NextFlex is there to provide support every step of the way.

NextFlex is proud to work with these future-thinking Colleges who have a shared vision to meet the developing workforce needs of the STEM sector. Through the national expansion of the FlexFactor program we are excited to create an energized community of educators and industry leaders that unites Colleges across the country, and supports our mutual goal of creating a talent pipeline that will deliver both the workforce needed by industry, and the opportunities needed by individuals.

Lorain County Community College, aside from being a fantastic NextFlex member, has truly been a leader in developing and deploying creative workforce development programs that introduce students to the possibilities of careers in the advanced manufacturing sector. We thank them for hosting this special day and helping other Community Colleges learn from their experiences in bringing FlexFactor to life in their local community.