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National Institute for Industry and Career Advancement™ and U.S. Department of Labor Highlight Pathways to Careers in Manufacturing at Arizona Event

Acting Labor Secretary Julie Su and industry leaders discuss role of CTE programs in bridging K-12 education to advanced manufacturing careers during visit to West-MEC


BUCKEYE, Ariz., June 5, 2024 /PRNewswire/ -- Today the National Institute for Industry and Career Advancement™  (NIICA) (formerly the National Institute for Innovation and Technology), in partnership with the U.S. Department of Labor (USDOL) and Western Maricopa Education Center (West-MEC), hosted a site visit and panel discussion with Acting Labor Secretary Julie Su, focused on the essential role of Career Technical Education (CTE) in preparing students for careers in advanced manufacturing.


The day's activities included a facility tour at West-MEC with Acting Secretary Su, a closed roundtable with key stakeholders, and a panel discussion moderated by Acting Secretary Su that explored how CTE and educational pathways can effectively link the K-12 system to careers in advanced manufacturing.

During the panel, Acting Secretary Su and panelists highlighted the need for educational programs that closely align with industry demands, ensuring students can transition smoothly into rewarding careers.


"The discussions at West-MEC today illustrate the ways in which partnerships on the ground help to realize President Biden's vision for strengthening advanced manufacturing in this country—and Arizona clearly has a strategic role to play," said Acting Secretary of Labor Julie Su. "Registered apprenticeships and pre-apprenticeships are the superhighways of our workforce infrastructure, and today's announcements will help us build more on-ramps for students into good jobs. Together, government agencies, workforce boards, educational institutions, employers, labor unions, community organizations, and other stakeholders can address both the immediate workforce needs and look to build a workforce system that is skilled, and inclusive for workers across the country."


The event also served as the launch and expansion of NIICA's Gateway Apprenticeship Program (GAP) into Arizona, in collaboration with West-MEC. GAP is strategically designed to bridge high school CTE programs throughout the nation with high-demand careers in advanced manufacturing, providing students with a direct pathway into Registered Apprenticeship Programs (RAPs). This initiative marks a significant step in building a competent workforce equipped for the future of manufacturing.


"As a USDOL Registered Apprenticeship Intermediary, NIICA is committed to securing robust employer participation in the GAP through West-MEC. In addition to establishing the program at West-MEC with the intention of scaling, we are making a commitment here today to sign up at least five employers to the program by year's end. This initiative not only aims to expand the talent pipeline, but also embodies our 'learn, earn, live' philosophy. At NIICA, we strive daily to ensure that every individual has the opportunity to thrive in high-demand industries, thereby contributing significantly to our nation's economic growth and technological advancement," stated Mike Russo, President and CEO of NIICA.


West-MEC has committed to significantly expanding its Energy & Manufacturing Systems and Automation & Robotics' programs. Over the next three years, West-MEC aims to increase enrollment from 50 to at least 200 students across multiple campuses.


This growth will enhance the reach and impact of these programs, aligning them with NIICA's GAP and Department of Labor's Quality pre-apprenticeship frameworks and supporting a broader demographic of students in accessing advanced manufacturing careers. As part of the launch, West-MEC has established a student ambassador program, where students will actively promote the advanced manufacturing program, illustrating the seamless pathway from K-12 CTE to pre-apprenticeships and ultimately, rewarding careers in the industry.

Additionally, West-MEC plans to collaborate with the Department of Labor's Women's Bureau to increase opportunities for all students within the manufacturing sector, with the bureau providing technical assistance to increase outreach, recruitment, and retention of women in its programs.


"West-MEC is excited to collaborate with NIICA to prepare and connect students to high-demand careers in the advanced manufacturing sector. West-MEC is committed to spending more than $14 million dollars to build advanced manufacturing programs on two of our campuses and will continue growing career opportunities in this field," said Dr. Scott Spurgeon, Superintendent of West-MEC.

KORE Power, a leading innovator in battery technology and manufacturing, has demonstrated its commitment to workforce development through their close partnership with West-MEC. Through this collaboration, KORE Power aims to cultivate a skilled workforce ready to meet the challenges of tomorrow's advanced manufacturing needs.


"Our partnership with West-MEC is exactly what KORE Power needs to help support and grow a diverse, local, and highly-trained workforce that will benefit from the 1,250 well-paying jobs provided at the KOREPlex in phase one," said Mike Canada, Chief Operations Officer for KORE Power. "The curriculum alignment with the competencies required for advanced battery manufacturing, provided by NIICA's collaboration with West-MEC, is an opportunity we look forward to exploring as our development in Buckeye continues."


Russo commented on the day's activities. "Our gathering at West-MEC illustrates the power of partnerships in transforming our approach to workforce development," said Russo. "NIICA is dedicated to pioneering initiatives like our Gateway Apprenticeship Program that not only meet today's workforce challenges but expand access to high-value careers for the nation's diverse population without a degree requirement for entry. We are committed to fostering innovative collaborations that advance our nation's leadership in strategic sectors, ensuring a robust talent pipeline for advanced manufacturing and the tech sector."


A replay of the panel will be made available in the days following the event. For additional information about the event or for media comments, contact the Institute's Outreach and Communications Manager Stephanie Frederick at sfrederick@niica.org.


About the National Institute for Industry and Career Advancement


NIICA (formerly the National Institute for Innovation and Technology) is a 501(c)(3) with a mission to identify roadblocks to innovation in strategic industry sectors, those important to the U.S. national security and global competitiveness, and ensure they are eliminated. The Institute is responsible for a national strategy to support the development of the talent pipeline required for the Semiconductor Industry, including Advanced Manufacturing and the tech sector.

NIICA's National Talent Pipeline Development Initiative represents a comprehensive, nationally integrated approach that enables broader participation by promoting skills-based learning and hiring, connecting the public education system, returning service members and their families and adults from other occupations to related technician and engineering careers. For more information about the Institute, visit www.niica.org.


About the Gateway Apprenticeship Program


GAP is a national initiative focused on building and expanding the pre-apprenticeship pathway through the education system by establishing pre-apprenticeships at scale through the existing CTE system, with the goal of eventually enabling all students K-12 in public education to have the opportunity to take courses aligned with target industries and take the initial steps to furthering a skills based education. The pathway will lead from high school CTE programs directly into employer-based RAPs supported by community colleges who provide the Related Technical Instruction (RTI), or in the case where they would rather continue their education or there is no current RAP opportunity, they can choose the path of going directly into community college. Funded by the U.S. Department of Labor, the Institute provides access to industry subject matter experts and its tools and resources required for curriculum alignment, development and student engagement, including the National Talent Hub, as well as Intermediary services for employers to establish Registered Apprenticeship Programs.

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