Feb. 5, 2024
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In October 2023, the Biden Administration as part of its Investing in America initiative, kicked off its Advanced Manufacturing Workforce Sprint, which is meant to galvanize national momentum to prepare workers for high-quality jobs in advanced manufacturing that are the result of federal infrastructure bills passed in recent years, including the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, CHIPS and Science Act, Inflation Reduction Act, and American Rescue plan.
These bills have created a need for skilled advanced manufacturing workers in clean energy, biotechnology, semiconductors, and other industries. Community colleges have a critical role to play in meeting labor market needs for each of these industries.
In recognition of this, the White House’s National Economic Council, Domestic Policy Council, and the Office of the First Lady, in partnership with the U.S. Departments of Labor, Department of Commerce, Department of Education, and the National Science Foundation, recently hosted a webinar (see slides) to promote resources, guidance, and funding to expand advanced manufacturing workforce development at community colleges.
The webinar outlined a number of important opportunities and priorities to create, expand, and fund their advanced manufacturing workforce development efforts afforded by the Investing in America agenda set of bills as well as existing programs.
U.S. Labor Department Resources
Labor Department official Manny Lamarre encouraged community colleges to voice needs and concerns to meet manufacturing workforce demands during their state WIOA/Perkins Consolidated Plan development process, a sentiment echoed by Amy Lyod, Assistant Secretary of Education, at an event at New America last fall, particularly around expanding K-12 interfaces such as through youth apprenticeships facilitated by a community college apprenticeship intermediary as well as degree-connected apprenticeships.
Colleges were also encouraged to initiate or deepen partnerships with local workforce boards and job corps during the sprint. New America has found that greater synergy between American Job Centers and community colleges can also support credential attainment, including in advanced manufacturing. New America also maintains resources to help understand and build the capacity of community colleges as apprenticeship intermediaries and in scaling youth apprenticeships. Colleges can also visit apprenticeship.gov for resources.
Registered apprenticeship expansion has been a key priority for my community colleges and the administration alike. The White House recommended community colleges participate in technical assistance programs offered by advanced manufacturing intermediaries:
U.S. Department of Education Resources
Noah Brown, Senior Advisor for the Education Department’s Office of Career, Technical, and Adult Education (OCTAE), highlighted a variety of efforts underway to support manufacturing education at community colleges, including its Unlocking Career Success initiative, which aims to build more reliable workforce pathways between high school and college. The $25 million Career Connected High School Grant is one example of a program supporting this objective.
Brown highlighted various policy moves the department has supported to better position colleges to serve manufacturing workforce needs. For example, in July 2023, Congress lifted the 26-year ban on Pell Grants for people in prison, which creates new opportunities for community colleges to support incarcerated individuals gain access to training for manufacturing jobs upon employment–although much work remains to be done to ensure that employers are willing to hire formerly incarcerated workers.
U.S. Department of Commerce Resources
The Commerce Department received the lion's share of funding from the $250 billion CHIPS and Science Act of 2022–presenting huge potential for community colleges, according to Commerce Department Senior Policy Advisor Rachel Lipson. CHIPS included the authorization of thirty-three programs supporting STEM-related education, training, and outreach, particularly around ten technology areas, which include advanced manufacturing.
Workforce development is an eligible use of funds for the $39 billion in CHIPS manufacturing incentives funding. Commerce expects most incentive awards to include dedicated funds for workforce development and more than $500 million in public and private investment in workforce development associated with CHIPS-funded projects. Applicants must submit a workforce development plan to the department and must partner with education and training providers.
Additionally, state and local investments in education and training to support semiconductor workforce development are “covered incentives,” a requirement for a project to qualify for CHIPS incentives funds.
As part of the CHIPS for America vision, Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo has called on the U.S. to double the semiconductor workforce overall, triple the number of graduates in semiconductor-related fields, and train 100,000 new technicians.
According to a 2023 Brookings Institution study, over 60 percent of semiconductor manufacturing jobs do not require bachelor’s degrees, creating opportunities for high-quality non-degree workforce programs. A 2023 analysis by Handshake found that student applications to jobs posted by semiconductor companies increased 79 percent in 2022-2023 versus just 19 percent for other industries, signaling possible strong student interest in these types of programs.
According to Commerce, at least eight states have announced new funding to support education and workforce opportunities in semiconductor manufacturing, and over fifty community colleges across nineteen states have announced new or expanded programs to meet semiconductor workforce needs since CHIPS was passed. CHIPS Guidance for states and localities can be found here.
Beyond the CHIPS Program office, community colleges are almost always eligible to apply for U.S. Economic Development Administration programs, many of which support workforce development in advanced manufacturing.
For instance, Austin Community College received an EDA STEM Talent Challenge grant to support semiconductor manufacturing equipment maintenance and repair technicians training while Sante Fe Community College won a 2023 Build to Scale award as part of a consortium with the North American Intelligent Manufacturing Initiative to address cybersecurity and IT needs in advanced manufacturing.
Lorain County Community College was a sub-awardee of the Ohio Manufacturers’ Association’s $23 million Good Jobs Challenge grant focused on meeting manufacturing needs for over 100 employers, including Honda, Lincoln Electric, and Kenworth while St. Louis Community College is a part of the St. Louis Tech Triangle Hub and the Greater St. Louis Build Build Back Better Regional Challenge Coalition which is funding $3 million in equipment purchases and installation for students to use in programs across robotics, robotic welding, programmable logic controllers, drone technology, and other manufacturing fields.
Lipson encouraged community colleges to do the following to engage across Commerce programs:
- Use the Investing in America map, the CHIPS Teaming Partner list, and college networks to identify semiconductor manufacturers and engage them to learn about their upcoming projects that will require training.
- Reach out to Good Jobs Challenge grantee leads in your region to see if they seek training partners.
- Encourage state and local leaders to invest in education and workforce development to help meet the state and local incentive requirements for CHIPS incentive funding.
- Contact your EDA Tech Hubs applicant leaders to incorporate your work into the broader Tech Hub Strategy. Contact the Tech Hubs team at email@example.com with questions.
- Explore collaborations with one of the 22 finalists of the $200 million Recompete program.
- Engage your local Manufacturing Extension Partnership Center and the ManufacturingUSA Network for resources and potential partners in manufacturing workforce development.
U.S. National Science Foundation Resources
NSF’s James Moore and Erwin Gianchandani, Assistant Directors for STEM Education and Technology, Innovation, and Partnerships (TIP) directorate, respectively, outlined a number of programs to fund community college programs in advanced manufacturing.
The Advanced Technological Education program funds technician education in awards ranging from $70,000 to $7.5 million, with a focus on associate degree and certificate programs. 75% of ATE grantees are 2-year colleges, but two-year colleges must have a significant role in all ATE-funded projects.
Since the CHIPS Act created the TIP Directorate, community college support has been a priority. NSF’s Experiential Learning for Emerging and Novel Technologies (ExLENT) program and Enabling Partnerships to Increase Innovation Capacity (EPIIC) fund work-based learning and capacity building, respectively, at community colleges in emerging technology fields–including advanced manufacturing.
The NSF Director and First Lady Jill Biden, a community college professor, announced the largest-ever non-facilities grant in NSF history at Forsyth Technical College in January– the NSF Regional Innovation Engines. Many NSF Engines focus on advanced manufacturing, and many community colleges are named partners in the NSF Engines. NSF encourages other colleges to reach out and participate in Engines.
Community colleges are critical to the innovation economy, including in advanced manufacturing. As the Biden administration seeks to implement its Investing in America agenda, community colleges have a critical role to play and will continue to play a part.
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