This article is republished with permission from Lake Geneva Regional News; credit Eric A. Johnson.
Williams Bay Middle School-High School announced Feb. 2 that it has become a member of Clarksville, Ind.-based Smart Automation Certification Alliance, Inc. (SACA) in order to align education and training to meet the realities of Industry 4.0.
SACA is a non-profit organization whose mission is to develop and deploy modular Industry 4.0 certifications for a wide range of industries. With the help its partners, SACA has created certifications that are industry-driven, developed for industry by industry through a rigorous process that begins with the creation of truly international skill standards, endorsed by leading experts in Industry 4.0 technologies throughout the world.
“I think it’s great for our kids,” said Williams Bay School District Administrator Dr. William White of the district’s SACA membership. “We’re always looking for opportunities for our kids. I’m happy with the work we’re doing. We’re trying to make a difference for our kids and provide them opportunities … That’s what we’re working toward.”
According to SACA, Industry 4.0 technology is rapidly transforming the workplace. As companies increase their use of ethernet networks and internet technology, they are connecting more devices from smart sensors to smart phones, enabling them to reduce downtime and increase quality and productivity. These highly connected systems require new skills in almost every occupation, which include the ability to interact with software, data, networks and smart devices.
Students completing Williams Bay’s career and technical education (CTE) programs will soon earn SACA Industry 4.0 certifications, giving them a competitive advantage in today’s job market.
“We are thrilled by all the work Jacob White, Williams Bay’s Industrial Technology teacher, has put into the program to ensure career-aligned opportunities for our students,” said Williams Bay Middle School-High School Principal Emily Soley-Johnson. “The Industry 4.0 Certifications will provide the next level CTE courses and certification incentives for students interested in learning about these types of technologies. We are excited to see more students engaging in these skills that support advanced manufacturing technology.”
A changing world
Today’s students face a far different industrial landscape than existed a decade ago. While automation technologies have been commonplace for many years, the internet has brought about a convergence of new “connected” technologies that is revolutionizing industries worldwide.
Known as the Fourth Industrial Revolution or Industry 4.0, this latest disruption of the industrial world is resulting in reduced downtime and increased quality, productivity, and overall efficiency in industries of all kinds thanks to advanced technologies that make up what is known as the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT).
IIoT technologies include such things as advanced robotics, machine learning, artificial intelligence, autonomous vehicles and machines, cloud-based data analysis, and cybersecurity. As companies increase their use of networks and Internet technologies, they are connecting more devices, from smart sensors to smartphones.
While there are many certifications available today that address isolated competencies, SACA certifications are different. SACA’s Industry 4.0 certifications certify “connected systems” skills that address the integration of the many types of advanced manufacturing technologies with Industry 4.0 technology.
Armed with SACA certifications, Williams Bay career and technical education students will be better prepared to be successful in an Industry 4.0 world.
Students will be able to earn SACA certifications at the Associate, Specialist and Professional level in areas such as basic and advanced operations; robot systems; IIoT, networking, and data analytics; automation systems; production systems; and information technology (IT) operations.
SACA certifications use standards developed with input from industry leaders, so students can feel confident their SACA certification endorses the knowledge and skills important to industry. Students will have the option of pursuing Silver (successfully pass a written knowledge exam) or Gold (successfully pass a written knowledge exam and successfully complete a hands-on performance assessment on approved equipment) certifications depending upon their coursework and hands-on skill development.
Putting the high tech in tech-ed
Since coming on board at Williams Bay, Industrial Tech-Ed teacher Jacob White has been focused on growing the district’s advanced manufacturing tech-ed program.
Williams Bay Middle School-High School’s FANUC Cert Cart and six-axis FANUC ER-41A robot are seen in use in the computer lab as part of the school’s Industrial Robotics course offered in collaboration with Gateway Technical College. Here, Bay Industrial Tech-Ed teacher Jacob White (right) instructs Zach Beinetti (center) in the use of the Teach Pendant as Kyle Marshal (left) takes notes. Williams Bay Middle School-High School announced Feb. 2 that it has become a member of Smart Automation Certification Alliance (SACA) in order to align its industrial technology education and training to meet the realities of Industry 4.0.
With the current 2022-2023 school year, White launched an Industrial Robots course in collaboration with Gateway Technical College at Williams Bay High School thanks to funding from the district and a Wisconsin Department of Workforce Development (DWD) Wisconsin Fast Forward (WFF) grant to purchase a six-axis robot and cooperating software from Japan-based FANUC Robotics, the world’s leading six-axis robot manufacturer.
As part of the workforce development-oriented WFF grant program, Advanced Manufacturing Technical Education Equipment Grants totaling $700,000 are being made available to reimburse Wisconsin school districts for the purchase and installation costs of technical education equipment used in vocational training and technical education in advanced manufacturing fields, including costs for equipment, operation software and instructional materials to train students. Grant awards range from $5,000 to $50,000 per grantee
The Industrial Robotics course at Williams Bay is one of four introductory Industry 4.0 classes offered at Gateway Technical College, White said, noting Industrial Robotics is the third of four classes offered, preceded by Industrial Controls and Mechatronics (mechanism networks) and followed by the final course in the series, IIoT (Industrial Internet of Things).
The four Gateway courses align for SACA certification.
“It (SACA) is a third-party certification dealing with everything we learn in the Industrial Robotics course, which is a big piece of that Industry 4.0 and automation,” White said, noting district projections and budget plans call for Williams Bay students to be able to register for Industrial Controls and Mechatronics in the 2024-2025 school year, noting the actual roll-out timetable hinges on the award of additional Fast Forward grant funding for the “expensive” high-tech equipment, software and supporting curricular materials.
“The reality is we’ve gotta wait a year,” White said. “Course 2 (Mechatronics) is projected to come out either the same year (2024-2025) or the following year, 2025-2026.”
While the first and second courses, Industrial Controls and Mechatronics (networked mechanisms), lead into the third course in the series, Industrial Robotics, White said Industrial Robotics was offered first by Williams Bay due to its “stand alone” nature.
“The SACA certifications, there’ll be one for Course One, Two and Three … so our students will have the ability, eventually, to get three certifications through SACA,” White said of the current Industrial Robotics course offering in collaboration with Gateway, and future plans to add in Industrial Controls and Mechatronics into Bay’s collaborative course offerings. “So if the students are interested in manufacturing and start taking my courses, then they can start the program and it’ll be much more of a progression that leads up to Industrial Robotics.”
According to the Department of Workforce Development, the Career and Technical Education (CTE) Incentive Grant program, established on Dec. 11, 2013 by Wisconsin Act 59, incentivizes school districts to offer high-quality career and technical education programs that mitigate workforce shortages in key industries and occupations. Administering this program requires the collaboration of several state departments. DWD, with the consultation of the Department of Public Instruction (DPI) and the Wisconsin Technical College System Office (WTCS), annually creates an approved list of industries and occupations with workforce shortages, and an accompanying list of industry-recognized certifications.
White said his plans are to eventually fold in the fourth and final course in the series, IIOT, which deals in-depth with PLC (programmable logic controller) programming.
“Course 4 is potentially coming 2027-2028, but no confirmed planning has been developed for it yet, but the outlook is there…,” he noted. “I’ve gotta take this one step at a time, and it’s quite the learning curve on my end. I was always gonna be a woods guy, but taking this job and learning about these new cutting edge things, I just like my job that much more because I’m learning these new skills myself and had to go through a whole certification process…”
A big help in his efforts growing Bay’s CTE program, he said, has been Mequon-based educational consultant LAB Midwest, the Midwest’s largest value-added distributor of curriculum, eLearning and hands-on training equipment for advanced manufacturing, engineering and skilled trades careers in automation and robotics, electronics, fluid power, welding, mechatronics, automotive, construction, engineering, machining, CNC, process control, heavy equipment simulation, green energy, HVAC and more.
Representing industry leaders including FANUC Robotics & CNC, LAB Midwest serves middle schools, high schools, technical and community colleges, universities and industrial employers in Wisconsin, Upper Michigan, Minnesota, North Dakota, South Dakota, Iowa and Nebraska.
“LAB Midwest has been the provider of the equipment as well as all the supports needed for training me and getting this implemented at the secondary level here—robotics, training, curriculum,” White said. “LAB Midwest has played a key role in all that, helping me with getting the Fast Forward grants. Again, we’re going to try to capture that Fast Forward grant for these other two courses. With these other two courses I have industry partners (Midwest Precision Molding and Brunk Industries, both of Lake Geneva) that are helping support me with that, and with their support and sponsorship we’re gonna use the Fast Forward grant to maximize their investment into the program. The whole idea there is to create students that are skilled in these areas, getting them excited about manufacturing, with the hope that maybe they’ll take interest in employment in some of these companies.”
White said the importance of SACA certification for students is immeasurable.
“They get that certification to put on their résumé, and being that it is a third party, it just gives it that much more of an authentication,” he noted. “It’s not like it was created by the robot company … And it’s also state-recognized and part of the Act 59 incentive grant list of certifications—and SACA certifications is on that list. It’s industry- and state-recognized, just adding another layer of value for the students that take that course. And there’s stories and situations across the state of students with that [SACA] certification getting hired right out of high school, getting captured for employment, because of the need and the shortage. It’s such a niche type of skill set.”
While the biggest SACA impact with Industrial 4.0 will be at the high school level with the Industrial Robotics course operated in conjunction with Gateway Technical College, and eventually with additional collaborations with Gateway around planned Industrial Controls, Mechatronics and IIoT course offerings, White said middle school tech-ed students will “definitely be getting exposure” through classes and demonstrations to “plant some seeds.”
In addition to the Williams Bay School District, other SACA member institutions in Wisconsin include Bradford High School, Kenosha; Chippewa Valley Technical College, Eau Claire; Gateway Technical College, encompassing nine campuses and centers in southeastern Wisconsin, including main campuses in Kenosha, Racine and Elkhorn; Indian Trail High School and Academy, Kenosha; Kettle Moraine School District, Wales; LakeView Technology Academy, Pleasant Prairie; Wisconsin Manufacturer of the Year honoree Masters Gallery Foods, Plymouth; Northwood Technical College, Rice Lake; Sevastapol High School, Sturgeon Bay; Slinger High School; Trempealeau Valley Cooperative 2.0, encompassing the Arcadia, Blair-Taylor, Independence and Whitehall school districts in central Trempealeau, eastern Buffalo and western Jackson counties; Tremper High School, Kenosha; Westby Area High School; and Western Technical College, La Crosse.
For more information about the Smart Automation Certification Alliance, visit saca.org.
Interested in Industry 4.0 for your program?
To become a SACA member or learn more about curriculum, training equipment and programming to teach these skills in the classroom, contact LAB Midwest: