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Manufacturing Innovation through Technology and Workforce

Manufacturing USA® is a public-private partnership with 14 manufacturing institutes that brings together industry, academia, and the public sector to advance American manufacturing. Each institute has a distinct technology focus, but all work toward a common goal: to secure the future of manufacturing in the United States through innovation, education, and collaboration.

Coordinated by the interagency Advanced Manufacturing National Program Office, headquartered at NIST, Manufacturing USA seeks to restore U.S. preeminence in manufacturing by addressing shared manufacturing technology, and workforce challenges thereby strengthening industrial competitiveness, economic growth, and national security.

To that end, Institutes tackle the various barriers separating job seekers from manufacturing careers. These factors mirror the ones cited by the Task Force on Apprenticeship Expansion as barriers to the creation of apprenticeships across the economy and include:

False perceptions


NextFlex (Flexible Hybrid Electronics Manufacturing Institute) has created FlexFactor®, a month-long collaborative technology and entrepreneurship program that exposes students to the vast range of professional opportunities within advanced manufacturing and innovation. Students work in small teams to identify a real-world problem, conceptualize a technology-based hardware device that addresses the problem, build a business model for the product and pitch the concept to a panel of representatives in a “shark tank-style” setting. Students visit a local industry partner to see first-hand what it means to work in advanced manufacturing. Next, they spend a day at a local college or university where they receive entrepreneurship instruction. High school students who successfully complete the program earn college credit thereby seeing themselves already successful at making the transition from high school to college or university. For some students, this completely changes the trajectory of their lives.

During the 2017-2018 academic year, FlexFactor engaged with 18 schools in eight Silicon Valley school districts, completing 46 distinct program iterations, for a total of 1,216 students. Moreover, FlexFactor is expanding nationally. The first adoption of FlexFactor at Lorain County Community College in Elyria, Ohio, successfully completed its pilot in April.

Centralized resources

LIFT/IACMI Learning Hub

The LIFT/IACMI Learning Hub is a joint education and workforce development initiative between LIFT (Lightweight Innovations for Tomorrow) and IACMI (Institute for Advanced Composites Manufacturing Innovation) that provides the first nationally relevant, open source and scalable online library of lightweighting and composites related education materials for use by educators and students at all levels. The creation of the Learning Hub is directly tied to the goal of the Manufacturing USA institutes to build and support the skilled and educated manufacturing workforce of the future and address the skills gap.


DMDII (Digital Manufacturing and Design Innovation Institute) and Manpower Group developed the Digital Manufacturing & Design Jobs Taxonomy and Success Profiles to capture the Digital Workforce Succession in Manufacturing. The taxonomy and profiles offer a comprehensive workforce playbook to help companies develop a talent pipeline for existing and future factories. The research includes in-depth profiles for 20 roles that span a range of "digital" technologies and business practices, such as virtual reality/augmented reality systems specialist, to align training and hiring better.

New apprenticeship programs


AmericaMakes (National Additive Manufacturing Innovation Institute) has partnered with Apprenticeship Works, a collaborative project between Robert C. Byrd Institute, ToolingU-SME, and the National Coalition of Advanced Technology Centers to develop and sponsor a National Registered Apprenticeship for Additive Technicians. The project is awaiting final Department of Labor registration approval.

The duration of the Additive Manufacturing/3D Technician occupational apprenticeship will be approximately 2-years (4000 hours) in the Hybrid model resulting in the new apprentice being able to demonstrate defined competencies. Apprentices must demonstrate mandatory outcomes through the assigned competencies. Apprentices must also complete the required 144 hours of Related Training Instruction, as minimum educational requirements. The Fundamentals in Additive Manufacturing Certification is the final certification exam. It aligns to the Additive Manufacturing Body of Knowledge compiled by Tooling U-SME, America Makes, the Milwaukee School of Engineering, the National Coalition of Advanced Technology Centers, and Technician Education in Additive Manufacturing & Materials, with input from more than 500 additive manufacturing professionals.


For its first round of workforce project, ARM (Advanced Robotics Manufacturing Institute) is funding projects designed to develop apprenticeship opportunities that respond to specific needs of small- and medium-sized manufacturers in robotics and automation. These projects will also address the needs of manufacturers that are identified as a critical component to ensure a continued skilled pipeline of workers into industries that depend on advanced manufacturing to remain competitive. Moreover, these apprenticeship programs have characteristics such as paid training opportunities and work-based learning that complement course-based workforce development programs.

The goal is to create sustainable apprenticeship programs that specifically incorporate "earn and learn" training opportunities in robotics and automation technologies. The programs will be customized to regional workforce needs, while ideally being extensible for adoption nationwide.

NEXT - A Workforce for America’s Small Manufacturers

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