360° Center of Excellence sharing in $13.1 million grant

The 360° Center of Excellence, a Bemidji State University-led consortium which includes nine two-year colleges in Minnesota, will share in a $13.1 million Department of Labor grant awarded to Central Lakes College, Pine Technical College and St. Cloud Technical and Community College to strengthen and expand Minnesota’s ability to develop a highly skilled workforce for manufacturing-related careers.

Central Lakes College is the lead institution for the award, which will allow the consortium to establish the Regional Advanced Manufacturing Retraining (RAMR) program. The three-year program will continue efforts to expand Minnesota’s educated labor pool in direct response to the needs of local manufacturing employers. The consortium will use the three-year grant to train an anticipated pool of more than 3,900 workers for these high-skill, high-wage positions, with an emphasis on metals manufacturing, plastics and composites, automation technology and rapid prototyping.

The program also will aim to counter job loss and job insecurity; since 2007, more than 8,700 manufacturing workers in Minnesota have either lost their jobs or have been in constant danger of job loss due to foreign trade and the export of manufacturing jobs overseas.

The 360° Manufacturing and Applied Engineering ATE Regional Center of Excellence office at Bemidji State will receive approximately $1.075 million for its activities to support the RAMR program over the three-year grant period. The center’s support activities will include:
• assisting with coordination of the RAMR program and 360‘s existing eTECH program, which provides online education for manufacturing, by Jeremy Leffelman, the center’s assistant director,
• development of modules and delivery instruction for courses taught in the RAMR program,
• funding for student subscriptions to Tooling U and Amatrol Online, both providers of online training and courseware related to manufacturing and vocational education,
• leveraging of 360’s Seamless Career Pathway program.

“The curricula we develop for eTECH can be used and leveraged by any of our partner institutions – including Bemidji State and Northwest Technical College,” said Karen White, director of the center. “It also should help develop a larger pool of potential students for Bemidji State’s bachelor of applied science programs in applied engineering and technology management.”

White added that the grant funding also would allow the center’s existing resources to be refocused on other strategic initiatives.

The overall grant program will allow the consortium to re-imagine the relationship between introductory manufacturing courses, adult basic education, and college developmental education to improve student retention and success; provide intensive services to help students overcome barriers to degree completion; expand access to introductory courses by enhancing existing basic manufacturing skills courses offered online by 360°; and adding new advanced manufacturing disciplines in plastics technology, automation and rapid prototyping.

In addition to the higher education coalition in the grant, 18 regional manufacturers and more than 20 government agencies, school districts, and the Mille Lacs Band of Ojibwe have pledged their support. The private manufacturing businesses are offering more than $2 million in support with cash, equipment and other support activities.

The grant is part of the Trade Adjustment Assistance Community College and Career Training initiative, which promotes skills development and employment opportunities in fields such as advanced manufacturing, transportation and health care, as well as science, technology, engineering and math careers through partnerships between training providers and local employers. The U.S. Department of Labor is implementing and administering the program in coordination with the U.S. Department of Education.

The plan to educate Trade Adjustment Assistance-impacted workers, veterans and other dislocated workers is built around a six-step process, with multiple exit-to-employment points throughout.

The grant emphasizes evidence-based program design. Grant lead Central Lakes College and consortium partners are required to collect rigorous student outcome data annually and conduct final evaluations at the end of the grant period to build knowledge about which strategies are most effective in placing graduates in jobs.

For more information about the National Science Foundation grant or about 360°, contact Karen White, center director, at (218) 755-2208.

ABOUT 360°
The 360° Manufacturing and Applied Engineering Advanced Technological Education Regional Center of Excellence is a partnership of 10 institutions led by Bemidji State University. Partner institutions include Central Lakes College, Lake Superior College, Minneapolis Community and Technical College, Northland Community and Technical College, Northwest Technical College, Pine Technical College, Riverland Community College, Saint Paul College, and St. Cloud Technical and Community College. The center, located in Bridgeman Hall on the Bemidji State campus, cultivates a potential future workforce through more flexible educational opportunities via its seamless career pathway.

360° Center of Excellence
National Science Foundation

The U.S. Department of Labor will hold a media event to announce the grant, Oct. 11, at Wilson Tool in White Bear Lake, Minn. The start time has yet to be finalized, but is likely to be at 9 or 10 a.m. U.S. Deputy Secretary of Labor Seth Harris is scheduled to attend. Wilson Tool has been a member of the 360° Center of Excellence’s advisory council since 2007, and the company’s human resources manager, Amanda Lemke, is a member of the center’s leadership council. For more information about the media event, contact Karen White, director of the 360° Center of Excellence, (218) 755-2208.