Manufacturing technology is changing: the Fourth Industrial Revolution has brought about smart sensors, connected systems and smart factories, cloud-based data analytics and integrated software. “Industry 4.0” technology is systematically evolving manufacturing processes, creating a need for highly-skilled workers.
Wisconsin’s educators have identified this shift and are responding in suit.
The Beginning of a Movement
The movement began this fall when over 30 high school programs adopted Industry 4.0 curriculum to introduce students to advanced manufacturing technology and processes.
Kenosha Unified, Gateway Technical College’s high school consortium, and the Trempealeau Valley Co-op are among the school districts implementing this curriculum. The latter made headlines this fall for their state-of-the-art mobile skills lab, the result of an investment by Ashley Furniture’s Education Foundation.
Jim Dotta, Vice President of Casegoods/Engineering with Ashley Furniture Industries, recognizes that these efforts help “all our local high schools to foster technical and engineering careers and career pathways in many fields of study – from agriculture to advanced manufacturing to information technology to engineering and computer-aided design.”
The high school program consists of four courses: Introduction to Mechatronics, Introduction to Industrial Controls, Introduction to Industrial Robotics and Introduction to the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT).
Even middle schools, like Random Lake, have jumped on the opportunity to expose students to connected manufacturing technologies.
Mike Trimberger, Superintendent for Random Lake School District, said the decision was made after months of consulting with employers in the community about what students need to know when they enter the workforce.
“As we see the increase of devices that are connecting to the Internet every day, our students will have an advantage over others if they understand the Internet of Things (IoT) and Industry 4.0 as it relates to careers they are interested in for the future,” Trimberger remarked.
The middle school curriculum used by RLSD builds a foundation in mechatronics, robotics, drones and autonomous vehicles, alternative energy and data analytics to grades 5-8 with student-led projects that require problem solving, creative thinking and hands-on learning.
And it continues into technical colleges and universities. Gateway is currently building a 35,000 square foot Advanced Manufacturing facility to train students in Industry 4.0 skills and Chippewa Valley Technical College installed a fully-automated Industry 4.0 system.
Standardization of Industry 4.0 Pathways
Through Pathways Wisconsin, the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction has been identifying high-skill, high-demand industries for which to develop “ready-made” Academic and Career Plans. With this Industry 4.0 movement, Manufacturing has been targeted as the next pathway.
Karin Smith, Regional Pathways Director for Milwaukee, remarked, “the Regional Manufacturing Pathways that are being developed will infuse Industry 4.0 careers and related post-secondary education and training options. It will also highlight Industry 4.0 skills and certification that will help high school students get a jump start on exciting careers in manufacturing!”
The Manufacturing Pathway will prepare students for careers in a range of skill levels, from Maintenance Technician through Industrial Engineer and from Operator to Automation Engineer, Electrical-Mechanical Engineer, and Industrial Data Scientist, for example.
Dr. Bryan Albrecht, President and CEO of Gateway Technical College, is a strong proponent of these efforts. “We are proud to partner with the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction to develop a statewide pathway defining the knowledge, skills and career opportunities in the Industry 4.0 manufacturing sector. It builds off the rich history of manufacturing in Wisconsin.”
The process began when the DPI gathered over 100 industry and education leaders to pinpoint career ladders, technical skills and academic skills required for a manufacturing career. Follow-up meetings helped bring ideas to a consensus as the pathway outline began to form.
Next, five pilot regions (Indianhead, Madison, Milwaukee, Gateway and Moraine Park) will discuss the draft to see how it fits into the needs of their individual region. For schools already offering the courses, credits, work experience, and certifications required, they will have the benefit of being named on the pathway. For schools who aren’t quite there yet, a standardized map will empower them to implement items needed to meet the criteria.
And this is key: As Industry 4.0 technologies create more opportunity in manufacturing, schools need the guidance and resources to develop a program that enables students to succeed in a manufacturing career.
Additional benefits of the Manufacturing Pathway include:
- Adherence to Academic and Career Planning mandates
- Provides a better understanding of modern manufacturing career ladders and Industry 4.0
- College credits and apprenticeship opportunities
- Empowers teachers to communicate with parents
- Builds relationships between schools, community and industry partners
- Ensures students will graduate with the hard skills potential employers are looking for
- Certifications through SACA, MSSC, and NIMS
Industry 4.0 Certifications
Certifications are an especially important benefit. While those obtained from MSSC and NIMS cover basic manufacturing processes, SACA adds in the Industry 4.0 component. But what is SACA?
The Smart Automation Certification Alliance was founded to bridge the skills gap for Industry 4.0 technologies. Jim Wall, Executive Director of SACA remarked, “with the rapid deployment of Industry 4.0 technologies, companies are increasingly finding they have a critical shortage of skilled workers.”
To solve that problem, SACA created standardized certifications for a range of skill levels. Competencies are determined and validated by technical experts in a variety of industries across the country.
And education recognizes the validity of these certification standards. “SACA represents industry’s voice on the knowledge and skills needed to perform in an Industry 4.0 work environment,” Bryan Albrecht commented.
Guided by clear pathways and equipped with credits, certifications and hard skills, Wisconsin’s students will be well-prepared for successful careers in manufacturing technology.