Colorado’s Advanced Manufacturing Education/Training Super Highway

By Tim Heaton | Dec 10, 2013

Imagine an education super highway dedicated to training and educating a manufacturing workforce. This super highway would have multiple on-and off-ramps, allowing the customer access to education and training beginning in high school and continuing well into their professional career.

This education super highway system would be one where high school students who are seeking a career-driven degree could access a comprehensive career and technical education while in high school. After completing this training, they could exit the system, without pursuing a four year degree, and join the work force, earning wages that equal or exceed many general four-year program graduates.

That same employee/student later in their career, or perhaps a veteran from the armed forces, could merge back onto the education super highway through community colleges to advance their career through a curriculum driven by the needs and demands of Colorado employers.

This system would construct on-ramps allowing a manufacturing worker to re-enter the education super highway well into their career to complete a four year degree. This highway would provide credit for the two-year certificates and industry specific training certifications earned by the employee earlier in their career. This clear sequence of connected education and training programs along the manufacturing education highway will allow individuals to move from the shop floor to the “C”-Suite.

This education super highway is closer to reality than you might think. The question for Colorado manufacturers is, “do you want to help build it?” Too often, Colorado manufacturers complain about the lack of skilled workers. Now is their chance to turn this talk into action.

Last week the Colorado Community College System and Colorado manufacturers launched a statewide Advanced Manufacturing talent pipeline initiative. Colorado workforce training professionals are not asking for money to support this initiative. They do want Colorado large and small manufacturers to step up and tell them what skills and competencies are needed in specific industries throughout the various geographic regions of Colorado. Now is the time for Colorado manufacturers to come the table as a partner in the construction of this education super highway.

The Colorado legislature, thanks to the forward thinking of Representative Jim Wilson of Salida and Senator Rollie Heath of Boulder, passed House Bill 13-1165, which created a Manufacturing Career Pathway for K-20 education and employment workforce systems using stackable two-year and industry specific certificates.

Additionally, the federal government awarded Colorado a $25 million grant to substantially improve Advanced Manufacturing training equipment infrastructure, training courses, and programs at eight of Colorado’s community colleges.

To complete this manufacturing education super highway Colorado manufacturers must be willing to provide work-based training experiences as well as input. These hands-on opportunities include:

· career awareness beginning in the early elementary grades;

· career exploration programs and internships in the middle and high schools grades;

· practicum experiences that allow for the application of post-secondary through college level internships and hands-on industry specific apprenticeship programs.

CAMA, through its workforce council, is currently developing the programs and framework to help Colorado manufacturers fulfill their role as the provider of these work-based training opportunities.

For Colorado to assert its leadership in this ever-changing advanced manufacturing environment, it is not enough for our educators or policy makers to develop curriculum or career roadmaps. Colorado manufacturers must participate in this construction project--now.

To learn how you can participate in this career pathway development project, contact Jo O'Brien, Colorado's Advanced Manufacturing Career Pathways lead at Jo.O', or me at Micro Summits will occur in Denver, Colorado Springs Mesa and Larimer counties, and Pueblo.