The Regional Center for Next Generation Manufacturing (RCNGM), a National Science Foundation Center of Excellence, was created in 2004 with funding from the National Science Foundation’s DUE - Advanced Technological Education Program to educate manufacturing technicians with necessary skills required by industry. The Connecticut community colleges under the RCNGM continuously partner with other community colleges, universities, and industry in New England and at the national and international levels to provide support and expertise to students and educators in engineering and technology programs.
The RCNGM is overseen by a the Connecticut State Colleges & Universities' (CSCU) College of Technology (COT), a consortium of all twelve public community colleges in the State, eight public and private universities; technical and comprehensive high schools; and representatives from industry. Eight of the community colleges have new Advanced Manufacturing Technology Centers (AMTC) that were recently expanded through a US Department of Labor grant. The COT began in 1995 through state legislation to create seamless pathways in engineering and technology from certificates and A.S. degrees to B.S. degrees. The pathways have multiple points of entry and exit for job placement and stackable credentials for degree completion, including national certifications that have increased enrollments and created program stability. The COT is led by the Site Coordinators Council that meets monthly and consists of faculty and deans from all member institutions and representatives from industry and government. The Council identifies and reviews new programs based on industry needs. This model led to the NSF funding in 2004 to create the RCNGM and the award of New England Board of Higher Education’s 2012 State Merit Award.
One focus of the RCNGM is program and curriculum development in order to produce a skilled workforce in response to industry needs. The RCNGM has conducted a biannual survey of manufacturing workforce needs in Connecticut, which educators use to identify curricular needs and to support funding proposals for programs. One community college was able to use the survey to create new programs including an additive manufacturing certificate to be offered in its new manufacturing building that includes a metal 3D printer. The RCNGM also partners with other NSF grants and entities such as Manufacturing USA Institutes, specifically with three of the institutes working to create collaborations among government, academia, and industry. In 2018, the COT and RCNGM were able to develop and implement an expedited process for replicating existing technology programs among all twelve state community colleges. A new Manufacturing Technology Instructor Position was also created in response to the need for experienced technicians as instructors in community colleges manufacturing classrooms and laboratories.
The RCNGM also produced DVDs profiling students who completed RCNGM programs and work in manufacturing companies. The Manufacture Your Future 2.0 and the You Belong: Women in Manufacturing DVDs are distributed nationally to high school and community college educators, counselors, and administrators to increase knowledge of career opportunities in manufacturing.
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