Wake Tech News


College Works to Increase Manufacturing Talent Pipeline

RALEIGH, N.C. (February 23, 2024) – Wake Tech is among a select group of community and technical colleges across the United States working together to increase the talent pipeline for the manufacturing industry.

The institutions are participating in the Manufacturing Imperative – Workforce Pipeline Challenge, an effort to address the industry's workforce shortage and skills gap crisis. The initiative is led by the Society of Manufacturing Engineers (SME), the national nonprofit committed to accelerating new manufacturing technology adoption and building North America's manufacturing talent and capabilities.

The Workforce Pipeline Challenge is a three-year pilot program with the goal of attracting 1,000 individuals at each of the colleges, resulting in 75,000 or more qualified workers in pursuit of manufacturing careers. The economic impact of growing the industry's workforce is estimated at $6 billion.

Launched last fall, the program combines the industry and workforce expertise of SME with the educational programs at Wake Tech and other colleges.

"Through this collaboration, the initiative is building awareness of careers in manufacturing, optimizing workforce systems and accelerating the education and skill development needed to place individuals in jobs making family-sustaining wages," said Jeannine Kunz, chief workforce development officer at SME.

Wake Tech offers training in mechatronics, robotics and automation as part of its Associate in Engineering and Mechanical Engineering Technology and Electronics Engineering Technology applied science degree programs. The college will also soon break ground on a new Advanced Technology Center at its Wake Tech East location in Wendell. The state-of-the-art engineering and advanced manufacturing facility will support Industry 4.0 production, with a fully equipped Systems Integration Lab as well as a Makerspace and a Materials Lab for product testing.

"Wake Tech is ready to meet the Triangle's ever-growing need for workers in the field of advanced manufacturing," said Wake Tech President Dr. Scott Ralls. "We're honored to have been selected for this initiative and are committed to working to identify and share best practices to keep the workforce pipeline growing."

Wake Tech Trustee Dr. Louis Martin-Vega, a former dean of North Carolina State University's College of Engineering, explained the importance of the initiative.

"Why is this important?" said Martin-Vega. "Because it’s difficult to compete as a nation if you don't make things."

SME representatives came to Wake Tech's Southern Wake Campus on Friday for the announcement and a day of workshops with engineering faculty and industry leaders.

"We are thrilled to progress this public- and private-sector initiative and keep the momentum moving forward," said Dr. Deb Volzer, government and workforce partnerships director for SME, who is leading the initiative.

Innovative solutions for attracting students in STEM related programs, developing and deploying curriculum aligned to the needs of local industry, changing the narrative around manufacturing and deploying strategies to build stronger relationships with school districts will be shared nationally to grow local economies, reduce barriers to employment and fill vacant manufacturing jobs.

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March 2024

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