Consortium Receives $840,000 NSF Grant to Help Address Region’s Manufacturing Needs
Mia Carlson

Consortium Receives $840,000 NSF Grant to Help Address Region’s Manufacturing Needs

LEWISTON, ID - A consortium that includes Lewis-Clark State College has received a grant to help regional metal manufacturers address their future workforce needs through the training of high school students.  The $839,809 National Science Foundation grant was awarded for the completion of a project entitled “Technical Career Pathways for Rural Manufacturing: Using a Sector Approach to Support the Northwest Intermountain Metal Manufacturers (NIMM).”

The grant is a collaborative effort with LCSC, the Clearwater Economic Development Association, and the University of Idaho, and is supported by 19 north-central Idaho school districts.  Up to 90 high school students will be recruited beginning this fall with the first online courses offered in January.  There is no cost to the students or school districts.

From LCSC:
NIMM is made up of regional metal fabricators, including ammunition and firearms makers, machine shops, a foundry, jet boat and trailer builders, and equipment manufacturers. They have common workforce needs for welders, machinists, and fabricators. 

The primary objective of the project is to address the workforce needs of regional metal manufacturers through online and hands-on training of high school students. This comprehensive program provides foundational knowledge, practical skills and soft workplace skills for two cohorts of high school students interested in mechanical CADD and electro-mechanical technician jobs. There is no cost to the students or school districts.

“This grant would not have been possible without the strong leadership of retired Career & Technical Dean, Dr. Rob Lohrmeyer, and our valued partners – CEDA and the University of Idaho,” LCSC Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs Lori Stinson said. “This project will provide educational opportunities to regional high schools that otherwise would not have been possible. This is a win-win for education and for local industry.”

“This program will smartly connect young people to industry and help them to develop entry-level skills directly needed and specifically identified by the region’s manufacturers,” CEDA Executive Director Christine Frei said.

Development of the project begins June 1 this year and will recruit up to 90 high school participants during the fall. The first online courses will be offered in January 2018.

During two academic years, high school students will complete online coursework focused on people, personal and workplace skills, 3D modeling, Applied STEM, computer-aided-design and introduction to engineering design. Students also attend summer academies in machining and electronics.

In the machining practicum, students will become familiar with blueprint reading, the properties of metals, alloys and plastics, learn to operate manual equipment such as lathes, mills, and precision grinders, and learn shop safety and quality control. 

In the second summer academy on electronics, students learn electronics safety, the basic characteristics of voltage, current, and resistance, how to draw and interpret common electrical/electronic symbols, how to read, write, and edit ladder logic programs, and about the different types of wiring/insulation characteristics.

There is no program cost to the students or school districts. These introductory courses will serve as enticement for further education, including an intermediate or advanced technical certificate, an Associate of Applied Science, and applied bachelor’s degrees. It is anticipated that some will pursue related degrees in engineering and like fields. 

“Our focus on these 90 students will give them an opportunity to experience some introductory skills in the machining, electronics, and engineering technology industries,” said Mark Smith, chair of LCSC’s Technical & Industrial Division. “They will earn college credits that will apply toward their career choices in all of these trades that are taught at LCSC.”

College credit may be awarded to program participants through Idaho’s new SkillStack program. The foundation of SkillStack is the micro-credential or badge which validates student skill against industry defined standards, to create a wider talent pool for the state. Badges may be earned for each course within the Metal Manufacturing Career Development program. For a nominal fee, these badges are converted to college credit upon acceptance to LCSC, and substitute for select program requirements, which reduces the number of credits required for post-secondary certificate or degree completion.

If the program proves to be successful, efforts will be made to ensure sustainability, Stinson said.

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