Archive for the ‘Education’ Category

SME and NASA’s HUNCH Partner to Engage Youth in Advanced Manufacturing

Tuesday, April 11th, 2017

With thousands of “Baby Boomers” retiring in the next decade and few new employees getting into manufacturing, manufacturers are worried about their futures. The industry is dealing with a severe shortage of workers equipped with the knowledge and skills needed to function in advanced manufacturing workplaces. Thankfully, schools are finally catching on that they are the first step to showing students the opportunities in advanced manufacturing.

SME has been working for years to bring back manufacturing education during a time when there is a big shortage of in-demand skilled talent in positions, such as mechatronics, programming, welding, CNC machining, metrology and more.

To help close the skills gap the “SME Education Foundation announced a new partnership with NASA’s agency-wide HUNCH (High School Students United with NASA to Create Hardware) program, to get more youth engaged in advanced manufacturing and ultimately encourage them to consider and pursue long-term careers in the industry.” This collaboration between HUNCH and the Foundation’s Partnership Response In Manufacturing Education (PRIME) initiative will give high school students an opportunity to build actual hardware that NASA astronauts, scientists, and engineers would use in their training programs and at the International Space Station (ISS).

Today, we have an estimated 600,000 jobs going unfilled because of the skills gap, but this could grow to two million by 2025 as “Baby Boomers” retire. This new collaboration will attract and introduce more high school students to career opportunities in the industry and prepare them to become the next generation workforce for jobs that are in high demand.

“By combining our PRIME network with NASA’s HUNCH program and working together to further expand the number of schools in the combined network, we can provide more students with access to a STEM and manufacturing focused education using hands-on learning experiences,” said Brian Glowiak, vice president of the SME Education Foundation. “Through this partnership we are motivating youth to consider careers in manufacturing and preparing them with the skill sets and knowledge to succeed.”

When I interviewed Brian last week to find out more about the partnership, he said, “PRIME connects regional manufacturers with local high schools to establish or build exemplary manufacturing education programs that prepare students for skilled careers in their communities. We work with schools to provide industry-driven training for teachers as well as curriculum for the students, while giving teachers and students access to real-world manufacturing equipment and resources.

This process begins by meeting with local manufacturers to gain an understanding of the current and future skills needed by their technical workforce and then working with the administrators and educators of the local school system to help develop a robust and sustainable hands-on training program for students. This program also provides students with opportunities to acquire industry recognized credentials and to benefit from job shadowing, internship and apprenticeship experiences.”

He explained, “Through the HUNCH program, PRIME students will have the opportunity to design and build actual hardware for in-flight astronaut training or for use aboard the International Space Station, bringing real-world project based learning experiences to the classroom. Alternately, HUNCH schools will now be part of the PRIME network, having access to SME student memberships, mentoring programs, and additional technical resources.”

When I asked when the SME Prime schools would start the program, he said, “We presently have 15 of our PRIME schools signed up for projects and eight have already received assignments and materials from NASA. In addition, SME is working with two HUNCH schools in Houston to start to integrate NASA’s HUNCH schools into our PRIME program. Ultimately, we have an opportunity to integrate 105 schools in this collaborative program, with 41 PRIME schools and 64 HUNCH schools. Simultaneously, we are working together to expand this network by adding more schools to the combined PRIME and HUNCH program in order to recruit and prepare more students for careers in engineering and manufacturing.”

He explained, “Manufacturing offers incredible and rewarding career opportunities with strong potential for advancement. Through HUNCH and PRIME we are not only building students’ awareness of these opportunities but also providing them with the skills and hands-on training needed for their future success. Moreover, giving students a chance to design and fabricate hardware for NASA and the potential opportunity to physically attach their signature to an item that could be used aboard the International Space Station is truly inspiring, both to the students and their teachers.”

I learned more about HUNCH from their website, which states that “the idea of HUNCH started when Stacy Hale, the JSC HUNCH project manager, had the innovative idea that maybe high school students could build cost-effective hardware that was needed to help train the ISS astronauts. Bob Zeek at MSFC [Marshall Space Flight Center] and Hale decided to test the feasibility of this idea. Many were skeptical about this idea, but because of the hard work and dedication of Hale and Zeek, HUNCH quickly expanded from 3 schools to numerous schools, in various states; the unique idea of HUNCH was quickly producing extremely positive results to all involved.”

In addition, the website states, “The NASA HUNCH team at JSC [Johnson Space Center]consists of four individuals who visit schools in a four state area that produce training hardware, software, videos and flight hardware and software for NASA. The HUNCH team at Marshall Space Flight Center consists of Bob Zeek, Kriss Hougland and others that visit schools within a five state area.

Under the mentorship of HUNCH personnel last year, “the schools produced stowage lockers, cargo transfer bags, 3 minute educational videos, and experiments proposed to fly on the ISS. They have designed and fabricated a disposable, collapsible, glove box, an organizer for crew quarters on the ISS, as well as black boxes and an EPM Rack. Over the past 8 years, since the beginning of HUNCH in 2003, hundreds of items for NASA have been produced by hundreds of students.”

When I interviewed Blake Ratcliff, NASA’s HUNCH Program Manager, last week, he said that he has been with the program about two years at the Johnson Space Center in Houston. He said, “Stacy Hale is still a Project Manager, and Bob Zeek is a mentor for schools in Huntsville, AL.”

Ratcliff said, “We have gone from making training mock ups to making actual tools and other hardware items that the astronauts use at the International Space Station and when they go on space walks. The students have also made metal lockers in which the scientific payloads are put for the research the astronauts and scientists conduct on the space station.”

He explained, “It is a project based program. We give schools real NASA projects that meet the needs and provide them the materials and instructions they need to complete the work. Quality is the most important aspect of the work, and the schools have done an outstanding job. Every year in April and May, we have Recognition Ceremonies for all the students and teachers that have participated in HUNCH at MSFC and JSC. The students present their projects during the HUNCH Ceremony where some projects are selected to be used in NASA systems and on board the ISS. Every year the number of participants continues to grow as well as the quality, quantity, and diversity of the products that students fabricate.”

When I asked if every school has a project, he said, “There is a wide range of build-to-print, design and prototype projects, but they also have software, communications, and culinary projects. We have a competition every year where students can come up with a new food for the astronauts. This year it is for a new dessert. The winner’s food gets flown up to the space station.”

I told him that I am surprised I had not heard about their program previously because I keep up with news about STEM education programs to attract the next generation of manufacturing workers. He said, “While we get a fair amount of press, it is mostly in local news outlets for the cities where our HUNCH schools are located.”

He added, “There are a couple of people working to do a documentary on HUNCH. We are growing so fast that we don’t need a lot of attention. It is good to publicize what we are doing, but we have been growing by word of mouth and don’t need to advertise for growth. It’s going to take a couple of years to integrate all of the PRIME schools into our program, so we won’t be actively seeking new schools for awhile.”

I asked if they have any schools in California. He said, “We just started in the Bay area and are about to sign up several schools. I asked how a school could get involved, and he said. “Go to the website and apply for a project. Then, one of our mentors will visit the school and determine if it would be a good fit and if they have the facilities to complete a project.”

Both the SME PRIME initiative and NASA’s HUNCH program are promoting student interest in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics.) Another benefit is that while students are building hardware and doing other projects for NASA, they are also building their interest as engineers, researchers, scientists and maybe even astronauts, as well as their self-esteem. HUNCH is a win-win innovative solution for inspiring the next generation of researchers, scientists, engineers, and manufacturing workers while providing cost-effective hardware for NASA.

Why Universities are Important to Rebuilding U.S. Manufacturing

Wednesday, March 8th, 2017

The fact that more and more manufacturers are returning manufacturing to the U. S. or keeping manufacturing here instead of moving to Mexico or Asia is good news, but on February 23, 2017, President Trump met with two dozen manufacturing CEOs at the White House.

While they “declared their collective commitment to restoring factory jobs lost to foreign competition,” some of the CEOs “suggested that there were still plenty of openings for U.S. factory jobs but too few qualified people to fill them. They urged the White House to support vocational training for the high-tech skills that today’s manufacturers increasingly require…The jobs are there, but the skills are not,” one executive said during meetings with White House officials that preceded a session with the president.”

“We were challenged by the president to … come up with a program to make sure the American worker is trained for the manufacturing jobs of tomorrow,” Reed Cordish, a White House official, said after Thursday’s meetings.”

Training today’s workers in the skills they will need for the jobs of the future in manufacturing is important, but we also need to educate the next generation of manufacturing workers. We need more engineers to rebuild American manufacturing, and universities play a key role in providing this education.

Last week, I had the opportunity to interview Dr. David B. Williams, Executive Dean of the Professional Colleges and Dean of The College of Engineering at The Ohio State University, located in Columbus, Ohio, to discuss the role universities are playing in rebuilding manufacturing and educating the next generation of manufacturing workers.

His official biography on the University website states, “Williams is involved in many university-industry economic development partnerships. He serves on the boards of ASM International, the State of Ohio’s Third Frontier Advisory Board, Lightweight Innovations for Tomorrow (formerly American Lightweight Materials Manufacturing Innovation Institute), Columbus 2020, Metro Early College STEM School, EWI, Ohio Aerospace & Aviation Council, and the Transportation Research Center.”

Dean Williams said, “Ohio State University is a manufacturing R&D and training Powerhouse. Manufacturing is a critical part of the state of Ohio’s economy and accounts for 17 percent of the state’s GPD. It is also the state’s largest industry sector. We have partnered with over two hundred manufacturers in developing and funding research that can be used in their industries. It is a very important part of the college. We use the talent of our professors, graduate, and undergrad students and technology. OSU is committed to innovating applied research for product design, technology commercialization, and manufacturing for industry through its programs.”

Dean Williams mentioned that on October 1, 2016 the Center for Design and Manufacturing Excellence (CDME) was designated as a new Manufacturing Extension Partnership (MEP) affiliate organization, and that Ohio State’s MEP program will work directly with manufacturers to identify and execute growth strategies. Afterward, I was provided with information that states: “The Ohio State University’s Center for Design and Manufacturing Excellence (CDME) will receive up to $8.6 million in federal, state and industry funding over the next five years to lead a program facilitating growth of small- and mid-sized manufacturing companies in the 15 county central Ohio region. The program is funded by the National Institute of Standards and Technologies, with matching funds provided by the Ohio Development Services Agency, which administers operations through seven regional affiliates.”

I found the information about Central Ohio’s manufacturing interesting very interesting: “The central Ohio manufacturing economy is comprised of approximately 3,350 self-identified manufacturing companies across the 15 Central Ohio counties. More than 90 percent of them have 50 or fewer employees. Many small and medium-sized manufacturing companies are aware of the growth challenges they face, but still require assistance to overcome them.” The size of companies is similar to San Diego County, in which 97% have fewer than 50 employees.

Dean Williams told me that the Center’s Executive Director, John Bair, is a successful entrepreneur, not an academic, and added that they had invited him to head up the Center after he had sold his company and semi-retired.”

He added, “We invite manufacturers to bring their problems to us, and then we put together teams of experts to work with them to solve these problems. The company gets to keep any of the Intellectual Property developed in the process of working together.

Dean Williams also said that Ohio State is home to the Ohio Manufacturing Institute, which “serves as a public policy mechanism for manufacturing within the state and nationally that facilitates the use of available technical resources for economic development.” He said, “OMI acts like a clearinghouse for Ohio to provide manufacturers with the tools they need to collaborate with a statewide network of technical resources. Its state and national policy recommendations reflect a thoughtful response to industry problems and issues OMI also engages in outreach programs that support manufacturers—from small to medium-size firms to original equipment manufacturers—by aligning with industries, academic institutions, technology support organizations and government.”

As an example, Dean Williams said, “We have had a long relationship with Honda since they moved to Marysville in 1978, which is about 45 miles northwest of here. About five years ago, we started partnering with Honda to help them develop solutions to some of their manufacturing problems. Their high-end NSX brand is currently made with advanced engineered materials and is produced at only a rate of 7-8 vehicles per day. They want to produce the Accord using the same materials and technology. At the Center, we have put together teams of experts to solve this problem.”

Dean Williams said, “Hundreds of students study abroad for part of the education. Their experience abroad strengthens their performance and helps train the people necessary to maintain and repair the machines. They are still lots of manufacturers in Ohio. We graduate about 2,000 engineers per year and about half of them stay in Ohio. There are 14 engineering colleges in Ohio, and we have the educational base to drive the 21st Century manufacturing.” Since the U.S. is only graduating about 50,000 engineers a year compared to the estimated 500,000 per year in China, Ohio State University is doing more than their fair share.

With regard to the next generation of manufacturing workers, he said, “A big part of the problem is that parents think manufacturing is like what it was in the past, so they don’t want their children to get involved in manufacturing. I was at SpaceX recently and met the chief welding engineer, and she was a graduate of Ohio State with a degree in welding. Young men and women can even get a Masters Degree in ‘joining’ through Ohio State’s online welding engineering master’s program: https://online.osu.edu/program/mswe. This discipline includes a deep understanding of the properties and testing of materials that can be welded.”

He said, “We are part of seven of the National Networks of Manufacturing Innovation (NNMIs). One of them is LIFT, which I looked up and found that it is “an industry-led, government funded consortium. By reimagining processes and procedures, the highly linked and leveraged network is facilitating technology transfer into supply chain companies and empowering the lightweight metals workforce.” Ohio State University, the University of Michigan in Detroit and EWI are the founding members of this NNMI consortium that was established February 25, 2014 following a competitive process led by the U.S. Department of Defense under the Lightweight and Modern Metals Manufacturing Innovation (LM3I).

Dean Williams stated, “We also partner with the community colleges under an economic grant program to develop the existing workforce through continuing education. Overall, through a variety of programs and camps, we interact with 70-80 high schools on a semi-regular basis. One program is Hometown Ambassadors, where students talk to younger students at their High School alma maters to help them understand the opportunities in manufacturing today.”

Since Dean Williams is on the board of ASM International, it was fitting that Ohio State University’s Department of Materials Science and Engineering hosted the ASM Education Foundation’s Materials Camps for two years (2013 and 2015). These one-week training camps provide the opportunity for high-school teachers to work hands-on with metals, ceramics, polymers and composites and learn how to incorporate these activities and demos into their science classes.

The Lightweight Innovations for Tomorrow (LIFT) was a partner with ASM International and the ASM Educational Foundation for the 2015 camp. “Curriculum content on the use of lightweight metals and new technologies [were] integrated into the programs at 45 camps around the nation…designed to enrich, stimulate and enhance the technical competence and teaching skills of middle and high school STEM teachers.”

Summer camps for teachers and students are important to attracting the next generation of manufacturing workers. More universities need to get involved with the summer camps and other programs of ASM International, the National Association of Manufacturers’ Manufacturing Institute “Dream it. Do it” program, and Project Lead the Way.

Advanced Technologies being developed at Carlsbad Gateway Center

Wednesday, March 1st, 2017

For the last couple of years, I have been the guest of several economic and Chamber of Commerce organizations to visit their region to tour manufacturing plants and write articles about their region’s industries, but two weeks ago, I was invited to visit an industrial park right in my back yard ? the Carlsbad Gateway Center, a Makers’ place with over 80 businesses in a 16.5 acres business park (Carlsbad is 25 miles north of the City of San Diego).

Courtney Rose of Olive PR introduced me to Toni Adamopoulos, Property Mgr. of the business park. She said, “The tenant mix includes innovation, food production, health and wellness, new technology, in addition to standard and warehouse uses. The park’s small spaces, affordable rents, flexible zoning, and wide array of  allowed permitting makes it a perfect location for small, start up, and incubator businesses to get started on their road to success in a welcoming park-like setting. Besides technology companies, the zoning permits storefront businesses such as a bakery, coffee shop, craft beer, and Kombucha beverage.”

We first visited Emcraft Systems founded by Kent Meyer and colleagues in Moscow, Russia in 2012. Kent said, “We started the company six years ago to design, build, sell, and support ARM Cortex-A and Cortex-M System-On-Modules (SOMs), which are micro controller systems programmed with Linux.” Emcraft is a California LLC headquartered in Carlsbad, and with an engineering office in Moscow, near Moscow State University. Emcraft partners met in Silicon Valley in 1998 while working on a Posix real-time operating system, and the relationship has lasted across several companies and cities. Kent continued, “We have about 6,000 customers in 36 countries, all using our system on modules or Linux/uClinux kits. All of our manufacturing is done in the U.S. We use independent contractors instead of having employees, and we form teams to handle different projects for customers.”

He explained, “We are working to highly automate the effort of embedding Linux and ARM microcontrollers for the coming wave of intelligent systems. Our customers use our system on modules to speed their time to market, and we are optimizing the design and manufacturing processes to meet the pricing needs of the market. We have found a way to be very productive with our team of 20 local and remotely cooperating engineering contractors, with our main office and manufacturing based in the US.”

In addition to Emcraft Systems, Kent is involved in local STEAM education. He has worked with local schools and the Carlsbad Education Foundation (CEF) to teach robotics and programming to youth. CEF is a 501(c) (3) non-profit organization that provides private support for public education programs throughout the Carlsbad Unified School District. The Foundation is also located in the Carlsbad Gateway Center.

We got into a discussion about attracting the next generation of engineers that is too long to cover in this article, but Meyer called the next generation the “Minecraft” generation because of the technological skills and interest learned through the online collaboration and building in that game. He started as a robotics coach over six years ago when his own kids were doing LEGO robotics with the FIRST LEGO League (FLL) for fourth to sixth graders, which was funded by the Carlsbad Ed Foundation. After doing that, he said, “We came up with our own little curriculum where the robotics could be used to teach interested kids in a very productive way, while also trying to find entrepreneurial ways to improve the ratio of students to technology to get as close to a one-to-one ratio with tech as possible.”

He said that they recently developed an “IoT Educational Platform” using Chromebooks, Linux, MQTT and Node-Red to see what kids might come up with when taught IoT concepts. The effort culminated in a presentation to the Carnegie Mellon SATURN conference in San Diego, where the kids showed a highly interactive MQTT platform of over 60 nodes all communicating and collaborating (robots, drones, lights, toys, etc) and connected to Skype and email over Node-Red. The effort won Kent and the team the distinction of “2016 Top Embedded Innovator” by Embedded Computing Design magazine. Click on this link to read the interview with Mr. Meyer after the award.

Next we met with Dr. Robert Boock, CEO/CTO and Co-Founder, of Glucovation. Dr. Boock previously served as the Senior Technical Director of Research and Development at Dexcom where he was responsible for managing the research and development of Dexcom’s CGM membranes and biotechnologies. He was part of the group that developed materials for Dexcom’s SEVEN PLUS. He was a co-inventor of G4 PLATINUM sensor and was a key player in its development and commercialization. He holds more than 44 patents and over 100 pending patents as well as having more than 25 peer reviewed journal articles.

Dr. Boock said, “Our company was formed to develop the most advanced Continuous Glucose Monitor (CGM) that will be affordable to those desiring to monitor their diabetes.” I have several partners, and we are now up to 12 people. They will realize development and work on licensing Agreements. We have signed a deal with a Chinese company and are negotiating a deal with another Chinese company.

He explained, “We are creating a technology that doesn’t require finger sticking. We are trying to develop a simpler but just as accurate method that doesn’t require any action by the user. We want to penetrate the Type II market, which is reaching epidemic proportions. Our product will prevent its escalation. We think that we will have the right product at the right time. Type I is 2% of the population, and Type II has escalated to an estimated 13% of the population. We would rather increase the breadth of our reach rather than make more profit. Outside the U.S., this epidemic of diabetes has the potential to bankrupt countries.”

He continued, “Dexcom and Medtronic are the two biggest players in the continuous monitoring field, which takes a reading every five minutes. They have only penetrated 15% of the Type I population. The future of Type I treatment will be the artificial pancreas (sensors within a pump).

He added, “We can also measure lactate which is a precursor to septic shock, and we could also monitor burning of ketones to know if a person is burning fat when exercising. We are developing a suite of sensors that will monitor five to six of the active metabolites.”

Finally, he said, “We are doing development in cooperation with our licensees, but we are the owner of the core technology. We should be moving into the Chinese market in 2018. The U. S. is more difficult because there is a PMA one-year review cycle after clinical trials, but in China it is only a six-month review cycle. We are doing trials in China, but haven’t started in the U. S. yet.”

Since I am aware of how long it takes to develop any biotech or medical device product before it finally gets to market, I found his last comment very apropos:  “We don’t do it for the money; it’s a calling.”

Our last meeting was with Martin Bouliane, founder and President of R&3D Engineering. He is a mechanical engineer who started his career in 1993 involved in product development. He worked with Cirque du Soleil for a while as a product designer. He was previously the owner of R&3D Engineering in Canada, where the company was primarily focused on consumer product design from 2000-2007. He moved from Quebec, Canada to California in 2007.

Bouliane said, “After moving to California, I worked for two medical device companies before re-launching R&3D Engineering as a U.S. company in 2012. The company was originally focused on medical device design, but some of my customers turned to me to help them get into production. I started working with robots that they purchased from Fanuc. A team from Fanuc visited our company and invited me to become an authorized Fanuc robot integrator. We now focus on custom robotic automation design and fabrication for about 75% of our business, and we have grown to a dozen employees.”

He added, “One of our biggest problems is finding skilled people as we need people who can make things work. We have a customer who makes desalination filters, and we started working with them two years ago and have designed a robot system to move the filters, which were heavy for workers to move around. Some of our local customers have been in the biotech and pharmaceutical industry for high volume production of disposables. We are creating a system for one company that dispenses oil, and are building machines to produce the blister pack for the oil.”

He explained, “One of the big reasons for advances in automation is that machine vision has become more and more advanced, so we can program the robots to do inline inspection. We also design and build the peripheral systems to surround the robots. The robot might be only 10% of the system, and we can configure the robot to do multiple tasks. More and more companies are benefiting from integrating robotics and automation into their manufacturing operations.”

This interview was eye opening to me because I had seen very little automation or use of robotics in local companies with which I do business. The main reason is that 97% of San Diego County Advanced Manufacturing businesses are companies with fewer than 50 employees. Another reason is that I do not do business with biotech companies as they do not buy the type of fabrication services I represent. I recruited Mr. Bouliane to speak at our upcoming March Tech San Diego Operations Roundtable event on the subject of the advances in robots, automation, Artificial Intelligence, and machine vision. He will also discuss the future of automation and robotics and give his opinion on whether jobs will be lost or created. There is a wide divergence of opinions on the answer to this question, so it will be interesting to hear his opinion.

San Diego Tackles Housing Affordability and Skills Gap for STEM Careers

Tuesday, January 31st, 2017

Workforce development is critical to San Diego’s economy, so this topic was featured at the 33rd Annual San Diego County Economic Roundtable I attended on January 19, 2017. After the two presentations by the two economists covered in my last article, the next presenter was Tina Ngo Bartel, Director of Business Programs and Research for the San Diego Workforce Partnership, which has about a $40 million budget. She said, “My department does the research for new programs and then implements them. We did research on small business and found that 95% have fewer than 50 employees. We collaborate with the San Diego Employers Association to provide H.R. services for small businesses and have set up a free hotline for help on such topics as Workers Compensation, changes to labor law and wages, termination, employee discipline issues, etc.”

She described a new program they have to connect employers with job seekers instead of doing all day job fairs. They are doing Hiring Happy Hours at a local brewery where job seekers and employers can connect in a more informal, fun atmosphere. They are customized and targeted to specific industries, such as health care and manufacturing.

Next, she described their Connect2Careers program, which is “a summer employment program that addresses San Diego’s ongoing skills gap by providing meaningful work experiences that prepare young adults ages 16–24 for in-demand jobs. By aligning the career aspirations and educational backgrounds of young adults with businesses committed to developing our emerging workforce, C2C creates a positive experience for both employers and youth.”

Ms. Ngo Bartel said that they had released a report on Apprenticeship programs in November 2016. San Diego County has employers in a variety of industries that sponsor or participate in apprenticeship programs. According to the report, specialty trade contractors and local government provide the most apprenticeship opportunities. SDWP is working with the building industry on an apprenticeship career pathway in which there is no cost to the participants for the training and employment. At the end of the apprenticeship, there is guaranteed employment. She also said that the Urban Corps has a pre-apprenticeship program for youth without a high school diploma.

She stated that Able-Disabled Advocacy (A-DA) received a federal grant in November 2015 to develop apprenticeship programs for occupations that do not traditionally have registered apprenticeships in the region: project managers, computer support specialists–networking, and computer support specialists–cyber security (i.e., project management, ICT). The Able-disabled Academy offers an ICT program training in ICT skills.

She added, “San Diego has the first life science apprenticeship program in the nation created by Miramar College in partnership with Rx Research Services.” The press release of January 29, 2016, stated, “San Diego Miramar College will receive a $600,000 Innovative Apprentices for the Life Sciences Industry grant to grow the number of apprenticeships in nine areas: microbiology quality control technician; chemistry quality control technician; regulatory compliance associate; regulatory affairs specialist; clinical research coordinator; quality assurance associate/GXP auditor; clinical trial assistant; drug safety advocate; and clinical data coordinator. Miramar College, home of the Southern California Biotechnology Center, will be the lead education agency in partnership with Rx Research Services Inc., the apprenticeship sponsor.”

She concluded by saying that the SDWP will be doing an update on San Diego’s priority sectors of Advanced Manufacturing, Clean Energy, Health Care, Information and Communication Technologies, and Life Sciences and will release the report at their Workforce Conference in November 2017.

The lack of affordable housing in California’s metropolitan areas of San Francisco, Los Angeles, and San Diego has reached crisis status. Historically, San Diego salaries have been substantially lower than the other two regions, so it has become even more critical. The median home price hit $507,500 in November 2016, up 11 percent from a year ago. Rents have been escalating due to the high demand and limited supply of affordable homes. Both of these factors are impacting employers being able to recruit skilled workers from other parts of the country and impacting our region’s ability to keep new college graduates in the region.

This is why the next speaker was Deborah Ruane, Executive V. P. and Chief Strategy Officer of the San Diego Housing Commission, whose mission is “To provide affordable, safe and quality homes for low-and moderate-income families and individuals in the City of San Diego and to provide opportunities to improve the quality of life for the families that the San Diego Housing Commission serves.” The SDHC website includes this statement as part of its mission: “Become a national model in initiating and implementing new, progressive ideas to address affordable housing needs across the country.”

Ms. Ruane said, “Our Board of Directors asked me to find out why it was so expensive to build affordable housing. It costs $300,000 per unit.” She said that one problem is that they have constraints from many of their funders for housing, such as must have solar, must be near a school, near public transit, look as nice as neighborhood, all of which add to the cost. Economist Lynn Reaser of Point Loma Nazarene College estimates the costs related to government are $40 billion. This impacts our regional GDP in the amount of $2.4 billion.

She explained, “We started with the McKinsey Global Institute report, ‘Tackling the Affordable Housing Challenge” and came up 60 factors that affect cost, most of which are related to local, state, and Federal government. We narrowed the list down to the top 11. The first eight are within San Diego’s purview to change. One is related to state government, and two to the Federal government.” The list is:

  1. Set annual production goals
  2. Incentivize more 80/20 development
  3. Defer development fees
  4. Reduce parking requirement
  5. Reduce commerce space requirements
  6. Unlock land and increase ground leases
  7. Approve community plans with Master Environmental Impact Report
  8. Support California Environmental Quality Act reform
  9. Increase state and Federal resources
  10. Align state oversight
  11. Increase State and Federal resources

She said that McKinsey was so impressed with the work they were doing that they issued a subsequent report in October 2016 on “Closing California’s Housing Gap,” which “provides a tool kit for fixing a chronic housing shortage in the world’s sixth biggest economy.”

She concluded saying, “If we can make these changes, the City could reduce the costs of market rate housing by $54 million and by $23 million for affordable housing. We have made movement on nine of the issues, and we will issue a year-end report next month.”

The next speaker was Gina Campion-Cain, CEO of American National Investments. Her presentation was focused on the commercial real estate market. The most interesting points of her presentation with regard to my focus on manufacturing is that corporate campuses are being developed with rich amenities for employees, such as fitness centers, restaurants, coffee stops, and “grab and go” marketplaces. She also touched on the changes in the design of open office floor plans instead of cubicles to facilitate more collaboration among workers.

The last speaker was Matt Doyle, Ed.D, Assistant Superintendent of the Vista Unified School District who spoke on “Innovation in Education – Addressing Student Engagement and Lifelong Success.” Dr. Doyle said the Vista school district has 22,000 students of which 10% are homeless, some since kindergarten, who are now getting “full-ride” scholarships. (Vista is located about 30 miles northeast of the City of San Diego.)

Highlighting the most important points of his presentation, he stated, “The biggest education issue is student engagement. In our school district, student engagement drops from 76% in elementary school down to 44% in high school. When I started four years ago, I had conversations with about 2,000 students. I took all of the words students had to say about school and put them in a program called ‘Wordle’ and the one that came up was ‘irrelevant.’ It is a similar trend around the country.”

He stated, “To resolve the engagement issue, we need to re-imagine education and develop work-ready talent using a Strengths-based Education Model. It’s not about preparing for college, but more about preparing students for careers. We are using tools used by industry and work with business partners of the Vista Innovation Center. We use technology as an infrastructure and are one-to-one in devices for students.”

He explained, “The goal is to be a self-regulated learner. We create a personal learning pathway for students and develop a student profile. We have developed a competency-based program so as soon as student demonstrates their knowledge in a subject, they can move on. What we are finding is many of our students are able to move into college classes as a junior or senior. The goal is to prepare the student or the pathway…not the path for the student.”

Continuing, he said, “Students are working alongside teachers. We are creating opportunities for students to learn. Our learning environment is different. A teacher is no longer at the front of a class with rows of student desks. At the center of student success is the concept of collaboration. It’s a brave new world. We are trying to move beyond the traditional mindset.” Dr. Doyle stated, “The results in our super school have been a  99% reduction in disciplinary incidents, a 50% reduction in absenteeism, 62% of increasing GPA by one percentage point in half a year, a 27% reduction in ‘Ds’ and a 33% reduction in ‘Fs’.”

He concluded saying, “We are reaching out to business and having meaningful conversations about essential skills. Clean energy is one of the priority sectors in north San Diego County along with advanced manufacturing. This is part of a project called the Talent Cities Solution to narrow the talent gap and feed the talent pipeline. We are working with Solatube in the clean technology field, and middle school students are having conversations about what skills are needed in that industry. We are trying to ‘marry’ companies with students so they students can be employable when they finish their education. We want to help companies “on-board” students. We are creating learners that are flexible and nimble because that is what industry needs.”

Public/private collaborations that incorporate new ideas and innovative  programs for solving the housing affordability crisis, solving the skills gap in workforce development, and educating the next generation of youth for STEM careers make San Diego a role model for other regions.

 

ToolingU-SME Report Reveals Manufacturers Are Not Addressing Skills Gap

Wednesday, December 14th, 2016

In 2011, I attended the imX Expo (interactive manufacturing eXperience) in Las Vegas when Tooling U-SME ” announced their Mission Critical: Workforce 2021 initiative and “sounded the alarm that the future success of manufacturing is at risk by the end of the decade if industry does not address the growing skills gap.” The event was sponsored by SME (formerly the Society of Manufacturing Engineers) and the American Machine Tool Distributors’ Association (AMTDA).

At that event, Tooling U-SME, “the world’s leading provider of training and workforce development solutions for manufacturing companies and educational institutions,” introduced a free one-of-a-kind “Workforce 2021 Assessment” tool for companies to use to assess and gauge their company’s performance because they had identified that there would be a critical shortage of skilled workers by 2021 that would threaten the future of manufacturing in America. “By answering a short series of questions about a company’s knowledge retention, readiness of future skill requirements, and the status of employee development programs, a company is able to assess their ability to meet current and future workforce challenges.”

In a September 5, 2016 commentary in The Hill contributor Grant Phillips wrote that the National Association of Manufacturers found there are “600,000 unfilled jobs in manufacturing primarily due to a lack of skilled labor. It is this skills mismatch that plagues the US labor market…”

On September 8, 2016, ToolingU-SME, released a report that showed the progress towards achieving the goal of the Mission Critical: Workforce 2021. Based on five years of insights from the Workforce 2021 Assessment tool, the report states, “the results are not encouraging. Responses show there has been little advancement. While it’s not too late, companies must take action now to ensure a healthier next decade.” The report quotes from report, “The Skills Gap in US Manufacturing: 2015 and Beyond” by Deloitte and The Manufacturing Institute, which states, “Over the next decade, nearly 3.5 million manufacturing jobs will likely need to be filled. The skills gap is expected to result in 2 million of those jobs remaining unfilled.”

ToolingU-SME Vice President Jeannine Kunz wrote in the cover letter, “only a very small number of worldclass organizations are prepared for the extreme talent gap predicted by the year 2021. Some of these companies started planning years ago to address the coming labor shortage. Others were forced to take reactionary steps when faced with a shrinking employee pool. Regardless, they started formal training programs, introduced apprenticeships, built relationships with educators and more…At Tooling U-SME, we are concerned that more manufacturers aren’t taking action since this has a big impact on the long-term health and competitiveness of the industry as a whole. There is a false sense of security among many manufacturers who are not recognizing these future challenges or investing in the development of their workforce today.”

The companies that responded to the survey fall into five categories:  procrastinator, strategist, role model, and visionary.

The procrastinators nearly make up the majority of the respondents because 49% said that “their company has not begun assessing their manufacturing employee’s current skills against skills they will require in the future.” In fact, only “1 out of 20 (5%) acknowledge conducting a complete assessment of all staff.” Since “nearly 9 out of 10 respondents (88%) said their company is having problems finding skilled works in manufacturing,” you would think there would be more urgency to address this problem. This problem will only get worse because “14% of respondents say they will lose a full quarter (25%) or more of their workforce to retirements in the next five years.”

The highlights of the report are:

  • “Key findings from responses to the survey from manufacturers of all sizes
  • Insights on business pains, such as hiring needs, training resources, mentoring and talent development
  • Best practices to immediately start ensuring your workforce is ready for the next decade”

The key findings are:

  • “Less than one-third (29%) of respondents would characterize their company’s talent development as good or excellent”
  • “30% say their company has no community involvement (internships, co-op, etc) to help develop the proper skills of their incoming workers.”
  • “54% don’t budget for employee development”
  • “33% say their job-related training options are minimal”
  • “88% say their company is below average when it comes to offering outside resources to upgrade the skill sets of employees”

While 74% agree that training needs in the organization impact a wide range of levels throughout the company…3 out of 4 (75%) say their company does not offer a structured training program on manufacturing skills. In addition, “less than half (45%) say their company has personnel designated to manage training and employee development.”

The report identifies issues related to the skills gap that need to be addressed immediately:

  1. Incoming employees — finding them
  2. Incoming employees — training them
  3. Incumbent workers — upgrading their skills to keep up with changing technology

With regard to finding manufacturing employees, I commented that we need a national manufacturing database of skilled workers when I gave my presentation on how to solve the skills shortage to the Cincinnati Chamber of Commerce. Many workers that have been laid off due to transferring manufacturing offshore or plant closures have no idea where to go to find a new job in manufacturing. They take lower-paying jobs outside of manufacturing because they can’t uproot their family on the chance they could find a job at a manufacturer in another city.

The ToolingU-SME report urges manufacturing to establish training programs for both incoming workers and incumbent workers to upgrade their skills. The report identifies the following six steps for companies to take to get started immediately:

  1. “Build a business case for learning with senior management. Involve the right stakeholders in discussions and tie learning to performance so you can measure the results later. It is important to set expectations, get buy in and gather support for the program early on.
  2. Define and update your job roles with the required knowledge, skills and abilities needed to build strong performance on the job. This competency-based learning approach will lead to the positive return on investment (ROI) your stakeholders expect.
  3. Build career progressive models, showing growth from entry level to more senior levels. This modeling effort will improve employee engagement and retention, and allow the alignment of skills to pay.
  4. Benchmark incumbent employee competencies through knowledge and skills-based assessments to determine gaps in performance and build a training strategy to address them.
  5. Design a custom competency-based training curriculum using blended learning that consists of online and on-the-job training as well as other performance support.
  6. Ensure performance standards are measurable and trackable. These standards will validate you ROI investment.”

What struck me is that all of these steps are integral to a company becoming a Lean Company. They are nearly identical to the requirements of “Talent Development” that are incorporated into the journey of transforming a company into a Lean company. It would appear that from this survey that the majority of manufacturers have not begun their journey to becoming even a Lean manufacturer, much less a Lean Company.

My recommendation is to start by using the free Assessment tool of ToolingU-SME. Then you can decide what steps to take next. If your workers need specific manufacturing skills certification, then check out the classes offered by ToolingU-SME, either online or on-site.

Another source for training is the Manufacturing Extension Partnership Program (MEP), which is “a national network with hundreds of specialists who understand the needs of America’s small manufacturers. The nationwide network consists of manufacturing extension partnership centers located in all 50 states and Puerto Rico. MEP provides companies with services and access to public and private resources to enhance growth, improve productivity, reduce costs, and expand capacity.” Locate your nearest MEP here. The MEPs have a variety of training programs that are available at reduced cost to manufacturers. The California Manufacturing Technology Consulting (CMTC) is the designated MEP for California, and they offer training in Lean manufacturing and many other subjects that would incorporate the above steps.

In California, companies can apply directly for a training grant from the Employment Training Panel (ETP) to help defray the cos of training or they can join an active ETP Multiple Employer Contract (MEC).

Many community college systems around the country offer training in specific manufacturing skills. California also has nine Centers for Applied Competitive Technology funded by the Chancellor’s Office of the Community College system, which provides training in specific manufacturing skills as well as Lean Manufacturing.

A number of community colleges actually use the ToolingU-SME courses instead of developing their own curriculum. I have discussed some of the training offered at community colleges in California and other states in previous articles I have written. You can peruse these articles under the Training and Workforce Development categories on my website:  www.savingusmanufacturing.com.

As more manufacturing is reshored to America, it will be even more critical to have the skilled workers we need to make American manufacturing great again. Do not procrastinate any longer on addressing this important problem.

Wednesday, August 31st, 2016

In February 2015, the Brookings Institute released the report, “America’s Advanced Industries:  What they are, where they are, and why they matter.” The authors of the report identified 50 industries that constitute the advanced industries sector, of which 35 are related to manufacturing, 12 to services, and three to energy. The report states, “As of 2013, the nation’s 50 advanced industries…employed 12.3 million U.S. workers. That amounts to about 9 percent of total U.S. employment. And yet, even with this modest employment base, U.S. advanced industries produce $2.7 trillion in value added annually—17 percent of all U.S. gross domestic product (GDP).”

Another benefit of these advanced industries is: “In 2013, the average advanced industries worker earned $90,000 in total compensation, nearly twice as much as the average worker outside of the sector. Over time, absolute earnings in advanced industries grew by 63 percent from 1975 to 2013, after adjusting for inflation.”

Number two of the report’s recommendations for our nation’s private and public sector was:  “Recharge the skills pipeline.” While everyone agrees that filling the pipeline at an early age is essential to increasing the numbers, achieving this goal has been frustrating.

A number of organizations have been working to fill the skills pipeline by developing the next generation of manufacturing workers. For many years, the SME Education Foundation has been committed to advancing the manufacturing industry and stimulating the interest of youth in STEM education and manufacturing careers. “The Foundation invests in students through a broad array of scholarship programs and makes a direct impact on manufacturing education through their Partnership Response in Manufacturing Education (PRIME®) program. PRIME provides high school students with opportunities to pursue rewarding careers as engineers and technologists; this includes vocations involving mechatronics, welding, CNC programming, robotics, and much more.”

The National Association of Manufacturers (NAM) “Dream It. Do ItTM” program has helped to expose our youth to the modern manufacturing environment and change the image of manufacturing to one that is “cool” and full of exciting career opportunities.

These newer programs build on the work of the non-profit organization, Project Lead The Way®, which has been working since 1997 to promote STEM curriculum for middle and high school students during the school year, along with their Gateway Academy, which is a one- or two-week day camp for 6th – 8th graders that includes team-building exercises, individual and team projects, and utilizes the latest technology to solve problems.

However, none of the above programs are geared specifically to girls, and it is an even bigger challenge to attract girls and young women to technical careers. Studies have shown that when role models and mentors are provided to girls, they are more likely to follow a similar career path.

Two years ago, I wrote an article about the PLAYBOOK for Teens, created by Cari Lyn Vinci and Carleen MacKay, which is available in print and digital format at Amazon. In the PLAYBOOK, girls can meet fascinating women in STE@M (the “@” stands for “art”) and follow the “plays” of successful young women to help them create their own “Dream Career.” At the end of each story, the PLAYBOOK role models share heart-felt advice for girls to apply to their career path. Then, questions are asked of the reader to help them take the first step to writing their own PLAYBOOK. The PLAYBOOK is dedicated to the smart, talented teenage girls who will become the future business owners and leaders in STE@M industries. The PLAYBOOK can be used as a tool for organization and corporate partners to solve their future talent pool problems.

I recently reconnected with Ms. Vinci and interviewed her about why she created the PLAYBOOK for Teens and what has happened since 2014.

Why did you create the PLAYBOOK?

“When I was a teenager, I never dreamed that I would do some of the work I have done and that I would be able to be successful in several different careers. A common thread in my previous careers was that I spent more than 20 years hiring and writing training programs to help employees reach their goals. My previous business was helping adults figure out their next career, and if they wanted to be a business owner, helping them buy a franchise. This led me to wanting to help students understand that what they study in school and the education they get after high school will shape their choices as adults…in careers and lifestyle. Before I sold my last business, I realized that I wanted to focus on this goal next and collaborated with Carleen McKay to write the PLAYBOOK for Teens. We have packages available to help corporations recruit talent and market their brand. After I sold my business in 2015, I began working full time to achieve my goal.

What did you hope to accomplish?

“I wanted to help connect the dots for kids, so they could make the right choices on what to study to prepare for a career that matched their interests and talents and would provide them the opportunity to live the lifestyle they wanted to live.”

What was your original plan for the PLAYBOOK?

“I wanted to inspire and highlight that there are many paths to success and that going to college for the traditional four years is not the only choice. I wanted to show students that people who look like them are happy and successful in careers and doing wonderful things to make the world a better place.”

Why STE@M instead of STEM?

Ms. Vinci said, “The “@” in STE@M represents the addition of art to the other disciplines, as studies show art training is relevant in STEM subjects.” She emailed me a link to her YouTube video, in which she said that “art and making things are closely related.” She added, “One of my ancestors was Leonardo DaVinci, and he was an artist, sculptor, scientist, and inventor, who used technology, engineering, and mathematics.”

Why did you focus on girls?

“We did extensive research before developing the STE@M™ Mentoring Program. Our discussions with middle school girls revealed there are several roadblocks that start to show up in Middle School. Students told us:

  • STEM careers are only for boys
  • STEM subjects are too hard. My teacher says I only need “fill in the blank class” to graduate.
  • There are no girls in the science club
  • I don’t want to be viewed as the “smart one”
  • My friends aren’t interested in STEM
  • My parents don’t talk to me about or can’t afford an education for me beyond high school

Our PLAYBOOK for Teens…STE@M Mentoring Program helps girls catapult those roadblocks by discussing the elephant in the room and helping girls see the truth and the possibilities. The 8th grade girls tell us these conversations are more open and beneficial in a “girls only” environment.

By seeing the necessary building blocks and seeing women who look like them that are happy and successful in STE@M careers, students understand what is possible for them. And, most important, students form a “techie tribe” of support to keep them motivated going forward.

When the program is delivered in 8th grade, students have the opportunity to take appropriate courses in high school based on their “PLAYBOOK for Success” which includes their education goals after high school of community college, a four-year college, military or other education option.

The mentoring program is a way to set the stories in motion by bringing more young women into the lucrative STEM arena. Teens explore STE@M careers, gain insights from the role model stories, journal and research educational options.”

How has your plan evolved in the past two years?

We launched the PLAYBOOK at the Sacramento State and the AT&T non-profit group, Women of AT&T, Expanding Your Horizons event in Sacramento in October 2014 with books for 400 girls. One of the role models in the PLAYBOOK was the Keynote Speaker. Then, I participated on panels for WITI and the Global Women’s Entrepreneur Conference and gave presentations at the AeroSpace Museum for students and JSPAC for California educators. We had a team at the first ever Start Up Weekend for Women in Sacramento. I completed the Entrepreneur Showcase Accelerator program and graduated by pitching to a room full of investors, (think Shark Tank with nice people). The PLAYBOOK for Teens was written up in Huffington Post and featured on News 10.

In February 2015, we got an order for 100 books from the Livermore Expanding Your Horizons event and an order for 200 books from Diablo College. The organizers bought PLAYBOOKs for the parents and I did a presentation for the parents to be able to help their daughters’ research STEM careers using the PLAYBOOK.

When groups of students experience the PLAYBOOK together (with a mentor, teacher or parent), there is energy, commitment and excitement. We now have PLAYBOOK guides for 1-12 Mastermind sessions. The Train the Trainer curriculum is eight sessions, and we have a modified version for parents. Teen Mastermind Members share ideas, research and build confidence as they make decisions and take action towards their goals. Teens discover important success skills for life and career through the Mastermind—while they build a “professional network” of other students who have an interest in STE@M.

We developed an APP to compliment the PLAYBOOK for The Women of AT & T. We have packages available to help corporations recruit talent and market their brand.” Starting with The Women of AT&T at their “Expanding Your Horizon” event and the American Association of University Women’s (AAUW) “Tech Trek” event, educators and non-profits have asked to use the PLAYBOOK in a group environment. Educators wanted to use the information in the classroom, so I wrote the PLAYBOOK for Teens — STE@M™ Mentoring Program.

The Yolo County office of Education hosted the first PLAYBOOK Pilot that started in December 2015 and ran through March 2016 at Lee Middle School in Woodland. After a presentation about the pilot, teachers were asked to recommend 15 girls who have an interest in STE@M and who they thought would benefit from participating in the pilot. We received 54 recommendations within 24 hours, the teachers and counselors and counselors narrowed the number down to 14 participants.

I was very honored to receive the 2016 Yolo County School Board Association’s Yolo County Excellence in Education Award on May 2nd for the PLAYBOOK for Teens STE@M™ Mentoring Program, Our program encourages girls to explore the possibilities of a career in science, technology, engineering and math.”

What is your current goal for the PLAYBOOK?

“”We are working with the Community College Chancellors office and County Offices of Education to conduct “Train the Trainer” programs for teachers/counselors/parents so that educators can bring the  PLAYBOOK for Teens — STE@M™ Mentoring Program to Middle School students throughout California. Our next steps include writing a PLAYBOOK for boys and girls and collaborating with other education content providers to extend the program into High School. The Director of Careers at the County Office of Education in Yolo County would like the PLAYBOOK Program in all 11 middle schools.”

I think the comments that Michael Gangitano, counselor and career exploration teacher at Lee Middle School in Woodland, gave at the awards ceremony provides the best opinion of the importance of this program. After he received an award for bringing the innovative program to his campus, he said, “Having worked with middle and high school students for the past 35 years, I am constantly on the lookout for instructional tools that help young people see and plan for their future. PLAYBOOK for Teens is one of those resources that only comes around once in a great while that proves to be a rare gem.

The STE@M™ Mentoring Program arrives in an era when women are increasingly prominent in medicine, law, and business, but still lag behind men in STEM career choices. The program aims to disrupt that trend by providing a mentoring program in schools, in after school programs, at youth groups or at home.”

I was pleased to hear from Ms. Vinci that a modified version of the program is now available by webinar for parents and youth leaders and that invitations are being sent out this week to the Greater Sacramento Area Middle School educators and counselors to attend a Professional Development Training on the PLAYBOOK for Teens — STE@M™ Mentoring Program to be held August 10 or September 2, 2016. She said that Middle School educators and counselors are eligible for a complimentary registration and $250 stipend to attend.

In conclusion, I can’t do better than echo the final comments of Mr. Gangitano, “…let’s touch the lives of middle- and high-school aged girls by providing an inspirational life plan that knows no boundaries. Your students, daughters, their friends and our future deserve no less.”

Traditional Industries Generate High-tech Spinoffs in Southwest Florida

Tuesday, November 3rd, 2015

My last article featured the stories of two companies that I visited, so this article will feature the four other companies I toured during my brief visit to Lee County earlier this month as the guest of the Lee County Economic Development Office.

Shaw Development is a family-owned company with the third generation now involved and specializes in the design, development and manufacturing of custom fluid management solutions, including Diesel Emissions Fluid (DEF) systems (headers, reservoirs, caps, adapters, strainers, etc.) for heavy-duty vehicles and machinery, such as trucks, buses, construction, mining, military vehicles, as well as agriculture and forestry equipment, power generation, and locomotive equipment.

Stephen Schock, Director of Manufacturing, gave us a plant tour first, and then we met with Lane Morlock, Chief Operations Officer. Lane told me that Frank Shaw founded the first Shaw company, Shaw Metal Products, in 1944 Buffalo, New York as a machine shop to support the military and developing aerospace market.

Shaw Aero Devices, Inc. was founded in 1954 to add engineering to their core capability and develop products with proprietary intellectual property. Frank’s son, Jim Shaw, headed up this company, and it became the industry standard for a variety of fuel, oil, water, and waste components and systems. Shaw Aero Devices moved Naples, Florida (Collier County) in the early 1980s and moved to Fort Myers in Lee County 1993. The company relocated back to Naples in 2001 after it outgrew its Lee County location.

Lane, said, “Shaw Development, LLC was formed in 1959 to transfer Shaw Aero Devices technology to ground vehicle markets particularly the lift and turn technology for fuel caps. We moved into our current 50,000 sq. ft. plant in Bonita Springs in 2008. Shaw entered into the DEF system business early on, and business has grown dramatically in the last 6 to 7 years.”

When I asked how much they outsource, he said, “We have a fair amount of capability in-house ? machining, stamping, forming, welding, paint, assembly and test capabilities. In 2009, we vertically integrated plastic injection molding by acquiring Gulf Coast Mold to bring back our molding from China. We bought a robot for welding that saves us a great deal of time. We buy some machining and sensors outside. In 2014, we added 17,000 sq. ft. to our production space in the plant and expanded our injection molding operation by 6,500 sq. ft. We added 75 employees over the past 3 years and our revenue has been increasing +25% YOY in this time period. We are now up to about 200 employees, so we are the second largest manufacturer in the region.”

In response to my question about their challenges, Lane said, “Our biggest challenge is to get the right talent. We work with Florida Gulf Coast University (FGCU) and more recently, we have engaged with the University of Miami to find the right talent. We work with local schools and the Southwest Regional Manufacturers Association to develop curriculum and manufacturing industry awareness to the local area. We are heavily involved with STEM and bring in students as interns and offer them the opportunity to work on private projects. One of our welders took a job with the local technical college to train welders, and this has provided us with an opportunity to work with this program and provide them with industry experience.”

With regard to my inquiry about being a lean company, he said that he had spent two years at NUMMI (Toyota Joint Venture) gaining an in-depth understanding of the Toyota Production System prior to spending seven years in a leadership role at General Motor’s corporate Lean Office. He added, “We have a full time Lean black belt to train our employees. We have gone from 43-day material turnaround to an average of 27 days in the past two years. Our model for business planning is Hoshin Kanri, and we have a five-year business plan and an annual business plan tied into it. Our on-time delivery is 98.8% year to date, and our quality PPM has improved by 60% in the past two years. We use a two-bin Kan Ban system and one-piece flow for our assembly line operations. Our employees are cross trained, and we review our manufacturing cell metrics at weekly meetings.”

With this emphasis on lean and the fact Shaw Development is both ISO 9000 and 14000 Certified, I could see why the company has been recognized as the Manufacturer of the Year for the State of Florida and Southwest Regional Manufacturer of the year.

My next visit was to American Traction Systems (ATS), a privately owned company formed in 2008 by Bonne Posma, as an affiliate of his other company, Saminco, Inc. ATS specializes in the design and manufacturing of electric propulsion systems for on and off road electric vehicles such the Ford Fusion, fuel cell buses, Hybrid trucks and buses, streetcars, trolleys, trams, GenSet Locomotives, Hybrid Diesel-Electric marine vessels, airline ground support vehicles. ATS has manufactured electric traction drives for Fuel Cell Buses designed by Ballard and Georgetown University, Hybrid-Electric systems for Allison Electric Drive division of General Motors as well as over 3,500 AC/DC and DC/DC controllers for underground mining vehicles. All design and manufacturing is performed in the Fort Myers, Florida facility with the capacity to deliver production of several hundred units per month.

General Manager Lem Vongpathoum led the plant tour at ATS and then we met with Mr. Bonne Posma and his niece, Cari Posma Wilcox, Vice President of Saminco, Inc. In a phone interview with Cari after returning home to clarify some details, she told me that Bonne was born in Indonesia of Dutch parents just as WWII erupted in Asia and spent the war years in a prison camp with his parents. His family returned to the Netherlands after the war and then immigrated to Canada. Mr. Posma founded Saftronics in 1968 in Johannesburg, South Africa and then opened a second facility in Ontario, Canada in 1976, which is still in operation as Saft Drives. He opened a Saftronics plant in Buffalo, New York in 1986, which he moved to Ft. Myers, Florida a year later. He left Saftronics and founded Saminco in 1992. Saftronics was sold to Emerson in 2005. After founding American Traction Systems in 2008, he opened a Saminco service office in China in 2009 and a service office in South Africa in 2011. He also opened an ATS facility in South Africa in 2013. Bonne’s energy and excitement about his companies was that of someone half his age when he showed us around Saminco and gave us a demonstration of some of the mining equipment at their testing yard.

Bonne clarified the difference between the three companies he has founded, saying “Saftronics made variable speed drives. Saminco makes solid-state electric vehicle traction controllers powered by batteries, diesel-hybrid, fuel cells and power systems, mainly for underground mining equipment. American Traction Systems makes electric and hybrid-electric propulsion systems for a variety of vehicles and equipment. I am the sole owner of both Saminco and ATS, and we have about 120 employees at the Ft. Myers Saminco and ATS plants. We also have a repair facility in Huntington, West Virginia that has 35-40 employees.”

Bonne explained, “We are competing with major corporations like Siemens, ABB and GE. We have to be more nimble to compete successfully. We competed against these companies for a Navy contract for a propulsion system for the USNS Waters operated by the Military Sealift Command and won the contract. We are getting into solar and working on a new diesel electric propulsion system for a Load Haul Dump (LHD) vehicle that is like a large Bobcat. We are also working on a new induction motor for ‘Mag lev’ trains.”

When I asked him about his suppliers, he said, “We use all American suppliers for what we can’t do in-house. We buy machining and sheet metal fabrication and use a contract manufacturer for our PCBs. We do full power testing in our lab.”

He added, “American workers are some of the highest paid workers in the world. There are three things that have destroyed American manufacturing: litigation, regulation, and taxes. If we want to level the playing field, we need to get rid of these three things.”

On my last morning in southwest Florida, we visited JRL Ventures, Inc. dba Marine Concepts headquartered in Cape Coral, Florida. The facility contains 42,000 sq. ft. of manufacturing and office space, equipped with state of the art CNC robotic machining centers and other technologies. Marine Concepts opened its doors in 1976 under the leadership of Augusto “Kiko” Villalon to be able to go from design to production of boats. Marine industry veterans, J. Robert and Karen Long, purchased Marine Concepts in 1994. As a leading manufacturer for nearly 40 years, Marine Concepts is now the largest manufacturer of tooling and molds for the marine industry in the United States. They make CNC plugs, composite molds (open and closed silicone/LRTM), CNC molds, CNC parts, limited production composite parts, scale models, and CNC cold mold kits. In 2012 Marine Concepts opened a facility in Sarasota, Florida with over 260,000 sq. ft. of manufacturing and office space. The two plants provide 300,000 sq. ft. of manufacturing space and seven 3 – 5-axis CNC milling machines.

Mac Spencer, CFO, gave us the plant tour where we watched a boat mold being machined by their very large machining robot. We met with Dan Locke, Design Manager and Senior Designer, who has been designing boats since the 1980s, using Unigraphix software that provides more free style for designing surfaces than Solid Works. Mr. Spencer said that normally their business was 80% marine vs. 20% non-marine, but during the recession, it was reverse. They diversified into making composite figures and structures for resort parks, such as Disneyland, Universal Studios, and Six Flags. They also make composite parts for trams and electric buses. Design work for other marine companies is also a growing part of their business. We briefly met with President Matt Chambers before departing.

My last visit was to Nor-Tech Boats where we met with Cindy Trombley, Director of Administration. She said the company was founded in 1980 by Trond Schon, who had moved with his family from Norway to Cape Coral, Florida. Nor-Tech manufactures high performance powerboats using advanced technologies, unique manufacturing processes, and stylish designs. The main manufacturing facility in North Fort Myers encompasses over 45,000 sq. ft. complete with a 20’ x 60’ downdraft paint booth. Within the main building a state of the art rig shop and in house upholstery departments are climate controlled year round to insure a clean and work friendly environment. The in-house engine development and production division is housed in a secondary facility along with the service department and a rigging facility. We could see three boats in various stages of production in the main plant, but we did not have time to go visit the secondary facility.

Cindy said they currently have 107 employees, but survived the recession by dropping down to only 35 and going into debt. She said they can make boats up to 80 ft. long, and most of the larger sized boats go overseas or to Canada. They make every style of powerboats except for “T-tops.” Cindy said, “Our biggest challenge outside of heat and humidity in Florida is finding skilled labor. There are no vocational schools teaching how to build boats. We have low turnover, but an aging workforce. One of the advantages of Florida is that there are no corporate or personal income taxes.”

A common thread for most of these companies is the concern about finding the right workers now and in the future. As I have discussed in past articles, this is a nationwide problem, not just in southwest Florida. During discussions with the management of the Lee County Economic Development office and members of the Southwest Regional Manufacturers Association at breakfast, lunch, and dinner meetings during my visit, I shared what is being done to address this problem in other parts of the country and by organizations such as SME’s PRIME schools, ToolingU, and Project Lead the Way that I have written about in previous articles. The more manufacturers and trade associations that get involved in solving this problem, the more successful we will be in attracting and developing the next generation of manufacturing workers.

Southwest Florida Attracts Manufacturers, not just Retirees

Tuesday, November 3rd, 2015

During my recent trip to southwest Florida as the guest of the Lee County Economic Development agency, I learned that in recent years, there has been an increasing number of business owners that have been regularly vacationing in the area who have decided to either move their business or set up a business where they like to play.

Lee County is on the Gulf of Mexico side of Florida about 125 miles south of Tampa and about 50 miles north of the Everglades National Park. There are five incorporated cities in the country: Cape Coral, Ft. Myers, Bonita Springs, Ft. Myers Beach, and Sanibel. The county population grew 63% from 1994 to 2014, but 55% live in the unincorporated area.

My tour host, Shane Farnsworth, Manager of Business Development for the Lee County EDO, told me that Cape Coral was a planned “bedroom” community, but many people never built homes on the lots. So, Cape Coral offers the greatest area of growth for industrial development through the purchase and combining of these parcels into industrial sites. Ft. Myers is the oldest of the five cities, so there is very little undeveloped land and new industrial sites will occur through redevelopment. During my visit, I met with executives of several manufacturing companies in three of five and the city of Naples to the south in Collier County (most of Collier County is taken up by the Big Cypress National Park.).

My first interview was with Bill Daubmann, founder and Senior V. P. of KDD, Inc. dba My Shower Door and a member of D3 Glass LLC. Bill originally had  established a closet organization business in Springfield, MA in 1986 and obtained a license agreement with Mr. Shower Door in 1989. After visiting the Lee County region for several years on vacation, he decided to move to Naples in 2001 and opened a showroom in 2003. His son, Doug, moved also and joined the company. He took the Fast track entrepreneur course by the Kaufman Foundation with one son in 2007 to “hone” their management skills, and took it again in 2011 with his other son.

Bill said, “It was a tough struggle from 2008 – 2010 due to the Great Recession, as southwest Florida was “ground zero” for the decline in the new home building market. We survived by mostly doing home remodeling.”

In 2011, they were informed that their Mr. Shower Door license would not be renewed for 2012, so they explored setting up their own manufacturing plant to make the tempered and glazed needed for shower doors. After analyzing how much glass they were buying out of the state and the problems they had with breakage and defective glass, they set up D3 Glass LLC in 2012 when new home building started coming back in a building they had bought during the recession. Bill’s oldest son, Keith, became President of KDD, Inc. dba My Shower Door. Bill said that the ovens for tempering the glass cost one million and everything else cost another million. They had to buy two custom-outfitted trucks to deliver the glass to their showrooms and customers.

Since Florida requires a license for the glass and glazing business, Bill and his sons took the test and got their licenses. Bill said, “We hired a consultant to do a “SWOT” analysis for our shower door business to make sure that our business model worked in all parts of the country. We wrote a business plan and did a beta test site. We are now selling our business model to others and running an academy on how to run a shower door business. We have four affiliate stores: Oklahoma City, OK, Grand Rapids, MI, St. Paul, MN, and York, PA. We also sell the specialized hardware for shower doors to our affiliates and other shower door companies.”

In the last two years, they expanded from just doing shower doors into other markets for tempered glass and recently finished providing all of the tempered glass for the new Hertz headquarters building that will open next month. Bill said, “We went from 22 to 50 employees in 18 months and are now up to 64 employees. We just made the INC magazine list of 5,000 companies at #2,085 and will be going to the big event next month.”

After I told him that I am part of the Reshoring Initiative to promote bringing back manufacturing to America, he said, “We were buying aluminum extrusions from China, but just switched to a vendor in the United States.”

In answer to my question about the advantages of being located in the region, he responded, “It is easy to deal with the people in the local government agencies, there is good transportation available on I-75 and Rt. 41, the new airport has flights going to our markets, and there are good local colleges for preparing the future workers we will need.”

My second interview was with Brian Rist, President and CEO of Smart Companies, of which Storm Smart is the largest subsidiary. Storm Smart is Florida’s largest manufacturer & installer of hurricane protection products and is the ninth largest manufacturer across all industries in Lee County. Brian is the inventor of the innovative Storm Catcher Wind Abatement Screens. He also moved from the northeast to southwest Florida to run his business. Brian said, “I started out with a couple of partners in a general contracting business and wound up as the sole owner. The first three years were a struggle to find a niche. The building codes were changing and I became the expert in the new codes, even teaching architects. After Hurricane Ambrose came in 1994, I tried to find a fabric that would replace plywood for covering windows. We talked with people in energy management and got everyone’s opinion. I founded Storm Smart in 1996 to manufacture fabric window protection. We became known as who to talk to about window protection. If you fail to plan, then you plan to fail. We did a CD on what businesses could do for emergency planning because 83% of businesses that have a disaster never recover.”

Brian explained that the building codes changed in Florida for developing sites in 1997 requiring window protection to be part of building a home. In 2001 new codes came out and insurance regulations changed also. Everyone has to have separate hurricane insurance. Insurance companies offered special rates for homes that had protection, and the State of Florida offered a rebate program.

“We started making polypropylene window protection by hand cutting the material, but we needed to ramp up to higher production. Getting a sales tax credit helped us to be able to buy a laser cutting machine in 2013, and it eliminated the bottleneck in our business helping us develop new products.”

They work with the biggest companies in the world that use fabric for hurricane protection. While their products protect homes from hurricanes, they also reduce energy costs. Brian said, “You can build a business based on a known market of saving energy and not just protection from hurricanes. Impact-rated windows are a fast growing part of our business. Most new homes come with impact rated windows.”

He added, “The building codes changed again and they are much more about retaining heat rather than saving heat. International codes are also changing. We watch what percentage of our business is with builders. We went to Cancun and set up small operation during recession in Mexico. We are currently doing work in Los Cabos, Mexico also. We sell to Caribbean countries like Bermuda, Jamaica, and wherever else there are resorts.

We have experienced fast growth and have been picked by Inc. magazine four times as one of the 5,000 fastest growing companies. We went from 26 employees to 100 employees after Hurricane Charlie. We went from five to six jobs per month to about 100 jobs per month.

We looked at all of their jobs and decided to really go back into the customer service business to be a sustainable business. We started to invest in our people and getting to know who they were. We had to make sure they were doing things right. We have to ‘walk the talk.'”

After we discussed some of the articles I have written on developing and recruiting the next generation of manufacturing workers and my involvement with the Coalition for a Prosperous America, he added, “‘ Walking the talk” also involves working with students and getting involved with the Southwest Regional Manufacturers Association [for which he is in the current Vice-President.] He said, “We won the manufacturer of the year for the local region last year. We work with five different academies related to construction. Only about 20% of kids go to college and only about 20% of them graduate from college. We had a tour of our plant during Manufacturing Day and had about 13-14 students come on the tour. Florida is too reliant on tourism and construction. Manufacturing creates more different opportunities for good-paying jobs. Our Governor was at our plant three weeks ago, and he understands manufacturing. By partnering with government and education, we can be more effective in growing manufacturing in Florida. In order to grow, we have to develop the next generation of manufacturing workers. Team building, time management, and ethics are the same regardless of the industry.”

In answer to my inquiry about Lean training, he said, “We have been very involved with lean manufacturing and are working with the Florida Manufacturing Program. We are going through a program for an ERP system in order to continue to grow. We have a plan to develop the company over the next three years. Part of it will involve having licensed dealers.”

The outlook for business in Lee County is very good according to the Lee County Business Climate Survey Report, Third Quarter, 2015 prepared by The Regional Economic Research Institute, Lutgert College of Business, Florida Gulf Coast University, released on August 27th, 2015. The key findings were:

  • 74 percent of executives stated that the current economic conditions have improved over last year
  • 66 percent of the executives stated that the current economic conditions for their industry have improved over last year
  • 67 percent of executives expect economic conditions for their industry to improve over the next year
  • 68 percent of companies expect to increase investment next year and none expect to reduce investment levels
  • 61 percent of executives reported increasing employment over the last year, while four percent reported reducing employment
  • 57 percent of executives expect to increase employment at their companies during the next year

While manufacturing represents only 2% of the economy of Lee County today, the staff of the Lee County Development agency is working with the economic development offices of the five cities and members of the Southwest Regional Manufacturers Association to grow the manufacturing industry and expand that percentage. Their work will be aided by the fact that Florida ranks 5th in the 2015 State Business Tax Climate Index with a score of 6.91. The corporate income tax rate is only 5.5% for C corporations only. There is no inventory tax for businesses, and there is no personal income tax. There are nine universities and colleges, and the two largest, Florida South Western State College and Florida Gulf Coast University have a combined enrollment of over 30,000 students. There is good technical training at the two-year community college level as well as at the Fort Myers Institute of Technology, Cape Coral Institute of Technology, and at the ITT Technical Institute. The Ft. Myers airport (RSW) is served by 15 air carriers offering nonstop flights to 46 destinations, most of which are east of the Mississippi.

The stories of these two companies are good examples of innovation to develop new products, becoming a lean company, creating a new business model, and expanding into new markets. These are some of the recommendations I made in the chapter “What manufacturers can do to save themselves” in my book, Can American Manufacturing be Saved? Why we should and how we can.

Having no corporate and personal income taxes and providing a friendly business climate are ideas I discuss in the chapter on what government can do to save manufacturing in my book. My next article will tell the stories of other companies I visited in Florida.

Idea Jam Explores Future of Jobs in San Diego

Tuesday, December 2nd, 2014

On November 7, 2014, I attended the “Idea Jam – Innovating for the Future” session put on by the Pacific Center for Workforce Innovation in San Diego. The purpose of the session was to identify the major challenges to the San Diego workforce in the coming years and to generate audience participation in visioning exercises to explore new and innovative workforce development ideas. The event was held at Colman University, and major sponsors were SDG&E, Qualcomm, the Eastridge Group, Point Loma Nazarene College, and Cal State University, San Marcos.

To get our creative juices flowing, Master of Ceremonies, Susan Taylor, San Diego’s TV news icon, introduced Futurist Speaker, Thomas Frey, of the DaVinci Institute as the keynote speaker. It is difficult to do justice to his very visual presentation of images of break-through technologies, but his statements alone created much food for thought about the future. He stated, “We are a backward-looking society…the future gets created in the mind. The future creates the present…Visions of the future affect the way people act today.” He rhetorically asked, “What are the big things that need to be accomplished today?

He continued, “Catalytic innovation creates entirely new industries, like electricity did…Most successful companies today are in the second half of the bell curve…the steel industry had its peak employment in the 1980s.”

It was a shock to hear him state that “Two billion jobs will disappear by 2030…Every time you download a mobile app, you are eliminating a piece of a job.” In answer to his own rhetorical question, “Where will our next generation’s jobs come from, he answered, “from new industries that don’t exist now.” He added, “As you raise the bar for our achievement, we create the new norm.”

“Software is heating the world,” he proclaimed. “In 2030, there will be 100 trillion sensors in the world. Information is being parsed into small things.” He cited some of the new enhanced objects such as: Amazon’s Track Car, the Asteroid Moon Micro-imager Experiment (amie) For Smart-1 Mission, the Vitality Glow Cap for medication management, the Ambient Umbrella by Ambient Devices, Mimo’s Baby monitor, the flying Nixie camera (a tiny wearable camera on a wrist band in which the wrist straps unfold to create a quadcopter that flies, takes photos or video, then comes back to you), the Philips biometrics coffee maker that can recognize users via their fingerprint and make coffee just the way that individual likes it, and the Pintofeed, calling itself the “first intelligent pet feeder”

He explained that “we are entering the age of hyperawareness and the quantified self with products such as printable skin sensors, smart body watches, brain hacking, transcranial brain stimulation.”

Frey stated, “3D printing is changing the world. The new HP 3D printer has 30,000 spray nozzles and can utilize over 200 materials. The iBox Nano is now the world’s smallest, least expensive 3D resin printer. Even shoes can be 3D printed, and Contour Crafting has developed a type of ceramics printing that could be used in construction. Whole walls can now be made by 3D printing, and a company in China was the first company to print a small house for under $5,000. The goal is to print an entire house in one day. In the future, you may live in a printed house…Bio printing can now print skin, veins, organs like a liver, limbs, and an exo skeleton, and there is a pill printer that chemprints antibiotics.” He quoted Chris Anderson, former editor of WIRED magazine and now cofounder and CEO of 3DRobotics, as saying, “3D printing is going to be bigger than the internet.”

“We need to prepare our children for jobs that don’t exist and technology that hasn’t been invented, he declared…By 2030, the average person will have to ‘reboot’ their career six times in their lifetime. To do this, we need to frame our work to train people in a faster way…By 2020, half of all traditional colleges will disappear.”

To facilitate this rapid training, he shared that the DaVinci Institute now offers 11-13-week courses in such topics as 3D printing, web design, game design and development and becoming a drone pilot.” He concluded by saying, “The fastest way to create new jobs is to eliminate the old ones out of existence.”

In California, the community college system is already providing this type of accelerated, focused training through their certificate programs in such subjects as multimedia, web design, web server maintenance and security, and culinary arts. It will be relatively easy to add new training topics to the curriculum to meet future needs.

After Mr. Frey’s predictions of the future, a panel of business leaders discussed what is happening in their industries and what new industries should we focus on. Jeff Nichols from Sempra Energy stated that “San Diego is the nexus of cyber security…Delivering electricity and water is synergistic, so there are opportunities to putting these two together.”

Dr. Ed Abeyta from the University of California, San Diego said, “We need to teach skill sets in a non-university setting but he hasn’t seen an online program that successfully replaces teaching in person.” He added, “We need micro-credentials that you could earn rapidly.”

Matt Grob of Qualcomm said, “The companies that change fastest are the small, startup companies. San Diego is very well placed in the robotics industry…UCSD is starting an incubator for robotics” With regard to training, he said, “A combination of a person and a computer are better than a computer or a person alone.”

In answer to the question, how do we prepare for the change and foster the culture of change in others? Dr. Abeyta responded, “Humanity had its core values before technology came, and we must instill those in our children. We need to marry the technology with our core values. It is not about getting the answer; it is Are we asking the right questions?” Dr. Smith of West Health commented, “We can teach how to think and not what to know.”

The last half of the morning was spent in an idea jam session by small table groups to come up with two ideas: most innovative and most likely to succeed. After lunch, the following panel of judges discussed the ideas developed by the audience: Molly Cartmill, Sempra Energy, Michael Alston, Qualcomm, and Mary Walter-Brown, Voice of San Diego. After presenting all of the ideas for the 17 different tables, the audience voted on the best ideas for both categories. The best ideas were:

Most Likely to Succeed

“Tinder, but for networking and mentoring.” (Note: Tinder is a matchmaking mobile app that uses GPS technology, in which users can set a specific radius have the option to match with anyone that is within that distance.)

“Industry developed after school programs to build skill sets and networking for specific career areas.”

“Change the hiring process from resumes to problem solving practices.”

“Retool community centers and libraries to be career path hubs.” (my idea at my table)

Most Innovative:

“Programmer boot camps for under-served communities integrated with soft and life skills.”

“Establish a mentoring program for retired professionals to share advice and knowledge to persons in transition”

“Implement playgrounds of interests at schools to help students see the possibilities i.e. Maker Spacers & digital playgrounds.”

“Geolocation app that reveals available parking, especially in downtown SD via satellite, with timer alerts”

When I think of the fact that I am now on my fourth career path, I can see that six career paths is a realistic prediction for the future. Just like continuous improvement is one of the tools for becoming a Lean company, continuous learning will be a prerequisite for everyone who wants to keep working during their even longer productive lifetime in the future. My definition of success has been to learn something new to the point of proficiency, so I can highly recommend continuous learning to others. It’s what makes life interesting, challenging, and fun!

San Diego Celebrates Manufacturing Week not just Manufacturing Day

Tuesday, October 14th, 2014

To highlight the importance of manufacturing to the economy of the San Diego region, the Mayor and City Council declared the week of September 30 – October 5, 2014 to be Manufacturing Week instead of only Manufacturing Day on October 3rd.

One of the highlights of the week was an all day Workforce Conference held on October 2nd put on by the San Diego Workforce Partnership and the San Diego and Imperial Counties Community Colleges Association Regional Consortium. The conference presented a summary of a detailed research report conducted by these two organizations of each of the sectors that are vital to the regional economy. San Diego’s five priority sectors are:

  • Life Sciences
  • Health Care
  • Clean Energy
  • Information & Communication Technologies
  • Advanced Manufacturing

More than 250 businesses were surveyed for the report, and industry associations and organizations with industry expertise also contributed to the study. The results of the study can be used to help these priority sectors, which are experiencing rapid growth and projected skills shortages, conduct workforce planning and management of resources. The Conference presentations included an overview of the research findings and panel discussions with industry experts and employers.

Since my interest in these sectors is limited to manufacturing, I only attended the session on Advanced Manufacturing, presented by Dr. Mary Walshok, dean of UC San Diego Extension. Describing San Diego’s manufacturing industry, she said, “It ain’t your old assembly line manufacturing. It’s about a network of suppliers. It’s about organizations that are prototyping and doing R & D on site…I think the moniker for San Diego should be drones, phones and genomes … Let’s add to that surfboards, skateboards, and golf equipment.”

Key data presented was the fact that “The Advanced Manufacturing sector accounts for 10% of all establishments, 15% of all paid employment and 22% of all annual payrolls” in San Diego County. The fact that the “sector is dominated by small-to-medium-sized businesses with 82% of firms employing less than 20 employees” confirmed my more than 30 years experience in San Diego’s manufacturing industry.

Utilizing a broader definition of what constitutes manufacturing, the report listed the manufacturing employment at 170,800 in contrast to the California Economic Development Department total of 96,900 manufacturing jobs in San Diego in August 2014, an increase of 2,200 manufacturing jobs since August 2013. The report projects a 6% increase in manufacturing jobs by 2018 for a total of 180,700 jobs.

The Advanced Manufacturing sector is no longer dominated by any one industry like it was 20 years when aerospace/defense was the dominant industry. Now, it is comprised of diverse industries in which no industry has more than 13% (electronic equipment and components). Aerospace/defense has dropped to 11%, and the fabricated metal products industry comes in a close third at 10%. Industrial/commercial machinery and computer equipment represents 8% of the industry, and signs and advertising specialties represents 6% of the sector. I was surprised that biotechnology only represents 5%, when San Diego is ranked third in the nation as a center of the Life Science industry sector after Greater Boston and the San Francisco Bay Area.

The report states, “Most Advanced Manufacturing occupations require high school education at a minimum. Moving up the career ladder requires on-the-job experience or more academic credentials, some are provided by 2-year or 4-year colleges. Many occupations require a specific set of skills for their workers, which can be acquired with an education credential. There are certain educational credentials that can be applied to multiple occupations.”

The study revealed the four occupational clusters that are most commonly employed in Advanced Manufacturing:

  • Engineers
  • Computer/Software
  • Drafters and Technicians
  • Production

The drafter category has morphed into people with expertise in Computer Aided Design and 3D modeling skills instead of traditional hand-drawn drafting skills.

The top five occupations that have a gap in the supply of workers produced by the regions educational institutions compared with the number of available job openings are:

  • Software developers, applications and systems software
  • Assemblers and fabricators
  • Aerospace engineers
  • Computer user support specialists
  • Machinists

The report goes into specific detail about the skill sets needed for each of the above occupations. To address this gap in the supply of workers with the requisite skills, the following recommendations are made:

•” Inform the public about the skills and levels of compensation in the Advanced Manufacturing sector.

• Develop an Advanced Manufacturing talent pipeline.

• Increase employer knowledge about business assistance programs for workforce training.

• Add an internship and/or work experience requirements to education and training programs.

• Encourage critical thinking and real world application in education and training programs.

• Standardize certifications and articulation agreements.”

Dr. Trudy Gerald, Deputy Sector Navigator for Advanced Manufacturing at San Diego City College moderated a panel of that included two manufacturing representatives: Nancy Boessow, HR Manager for Johnson Matthey Medical Components and Rick Urban, COO and CFO of Quality Controlled Manufacturing, Inc., a leading precision machining manufacturer of complex components and assemblies for the aerospace, defense, and energy industries.

Joining the panel was Jo Marie Diamond, President and CEO of the East County Economic Development Council and newly appointed as the region’s representative on the Executive Board for the Advanced Manufacturing Partnership – Southern California, one of only 12 federally designated Investing in Manufacturing Community Partnership (IMCP) consortia and the only one west of the Mississippi. Ms. Diamond said that the advanced manufacturing sector has an aging workforce, so “We’re going to have to fill that pipeline [with training and education].”

There has been a shortage of skilled machinists, especially lathe operators for the past 15 years, and since I have discussed this issue with Mr. Urban personally, I am aware of what his company is doing with regard to training. The company website states, “QCMI needed to establish an Education / Training Competitive Workforce Initiative. The QCMI WEA winning initiative includes: a mentoring program for entry-level employees; promotion and training from within; partnering with high schools and colleges; and the creation of a nonprofit Academy.” The Academy training and apprenticeship program began earlier this year with a curriculum that took a year to develop.

At the conference, he stated, “We’re going to do a lot of training…The people that come in at an entry level position are allowed to stay there for six months. They have to move up or it doesn’t make sense because we have to keep that pipeline going.”

The conference was well attended by people within the five industry sectors, as well as those seeking to make career transitions or improve their skills, career counselors, trainers, and educators. The presentations and panelists provided a complete picture of what employers are looking for in the current and future labor force and set the stage for the events that followed on Manufacturing Day.

Manufacturing Day began with a breakfast at the new central library in downtown San Diego organized by the San Diego Regional Economic Development Corporation. President and CEO Mark Cafferty and Congressional Representatives Susan Davis and Scott Peters gave introductory remarks welcoming attendees, and then Jack Stewart, president of the California Manufacturers and Technology Association, moderated the following a panel of local manufacturers that represent a cross section of San Diego’s diverse industries:

Bob Cassidy, Senior Director of Operations, ViaSat – producer of satellite and other digital communication products for the commercial and government sectors

Guillermo Romero, General Manager, 3D Robotics’ plant in Tijuana – producer of miniature commercial unmanned aerial vehicles (drones)

Kevin Graney, Vice President and General Manager, General Dynamics NASSCO – shipbuilding of Naval and commercial ships and tankers

Carlos Nunez, COO, Care Fusion – producer of infusion, interventional procedures, medication and medical supply management, respiratory care and surgical products.

Dave Klimkiewicz, co-founder of Sector 9 skateboards

Mr. Stewart remarked, “Manufacturing was the industry on the outs. Service industries aren’t creating the good paying jobs…”This isn’t your father’s factory floor anymore…Now manufacturing is new, high tech, and robotic…Just as manufacturers have retooled their operations to be more efficient, more clean, more innovative, the universities, community colleges, the high schools must retool their education systems.” He added, “Advanced manufacturers in California have to be the cleanest, the best, cut costs, and improve productivity.”

Each panelist gave a brief overview of their company’s products and services, and then took turns answering questions posed by the moderator. With regard to finding qualified workers, their comments corroborated the comments of the panelists the previous day at the Workforce Partnership conference.

Cassidy said, “We have a very stable workforce with very low turnover, but it’s an aging population, especially on the electro-mechanical team…We need more with solder training and wireless technician certificates.”

Graney said that they have the largest backlog in their history and are hiring anyone who can fit or weld. “We end up training everybody that basically comes in the gate,” he said. “We’ve got eight weeks to develop a fitter or welder, before they’re out on the production run. We have had really only frankly limited success doing it any other way.” He added that they are making data available electronically to their welders at their workstations, and their painting process has reduced 90% of emissions.

All of the panelists made comments about how high schools need to get back to basics, including computer skills and technical training in wood shop, auto shop, and metal shop for those not going to go to college. Mr. Nunez said that STEM education needs to be supplemented with hands-on projects, such as ones using a “Raspberry Pi [A breadboard device for prototyping circuits].”

In answer to the moderator’s question about what are the benefits of bi-national manufacturing, Mr. Nunez said that the majority of the manufacturing for their infusion pumps and tubing takes place in Tijuana and Mexicali. Mr. Romero said that most of their SKUs are made in Tijuana, and the close proximity allows their engineers to visit the plant in the morning. He said, “It’s important to buy the right equipment and hire the right people.

The panelists touted San Diego’s collaborative effort among businesses and organizations, as well as opportunities created by the region’s proximity to Mexico. They also commented on the higher costs of doing business in California compared with other regions.

After the breakfast ended, I went on three tours out of the more than 25 tours offered in the San Diego region’s manufacturers. First, I visited D & K Engineering in Rancho Bernardo. D&K Engineering was started in 1999 by Scott Dennis and Alex Kunczynski as an engineering design and product development firm that evolved into providing contract manufacturing services for such companies as ecoATM and Retail Inkjet. D & K offered tours every half hour from 11 AM – 3 PM and 10 people were allowed on each tour. Besides business people, there were one mother and her pre-teen, home-schooled son and daughter on my tour.

Next, I visited Alphatec Spine in Carlsbad that makes implants made from PEEK and Titanium used in spinal surgery and reconstruction. My last stop was a mixer sponsored by the California Manufacturing Technology Consulting and the City of Santee at one of our many microbreweries, BNS Brewing & Distilling Company in Santee. The guest of honor at the mixer was Sid Voorakkara, a Senior Business Development Specialist from the Office Governor Brown. He provided the attendees with a brief overview of the new California Competes Tax Credit and the Manufacturing and R & D equipment sales and use tax exemption (for details go to http://www.business.ca.gov/ )

The producers of Manufacturing Day 2014 have bragged that “This year’s Manufacturing Day set another record with almost twice as many events as last year. The final count was over 1,650 events in all 50 U.S. states, three Canadian provinces, and Puerto Rico.” However, until we get more educators, parents, and students to attend these tours, we will not achieve our goal of attracting more youth to manufacturing and other STEM careers.