Innovation Centers and Manufacturing Hubs Continue Expanding Across the U.S. to Address the Skills Gap

August 06, 2021 by Seth Price

Manufacturing is feeling the crunch of skilled technicians retiring, with nobody to fill their places. A few companies and innovation centers are creating pipelines of skilled technicians.

One way to create a pipeline of new technicians is to partner with an organization dedicated to training, teaching, and demonstrating advanced manufacturing technicians.


Renishaw and Connecticut Center for Advanced Technology (CCAT)

Renishaw recently announced its partnership with the Connecticut Center for Advanced Technology (CCAT) for such a purpose. Renishaw specializes in precision motion control, additive manufacturing, metrology, and several other scientific and engineering fields. 


CCAT Advanced Manufacturing Center

CCAT’s Advanced Manufacturing Center. Image used courtesy of Renishaw


The partnership between these two organizations will introduce new technology to CCAT students as well as provide a pool of interns and potential employees for Renishaw. The company hopes working with educational institutions to train manufacturing professionals on the latest technologies will help them secure success. Specifically, it believes that collaborating with CCAT is a natural way to get involved.


Clark College Advanced Manufacturing and Mechanical Program

Besides partnerships, industries can take advantage of existing college and trade schools. The Washington state legislature recently passed a 53 million USD project to build a 70,000 square foot center for manufacturing technology. The new facility will be part of Clark College in Ridgefield, WA. It sits on the governor’s desk for his signature. 


Clark College

Proposed map of the Clark College at Boschma Farms in Ridgefield, WA. Image used courtesy of The Reflector


Clark College offers everything from GED programs, certificate programs, and associate degrees in automotive, diesel, welding, and mechatronics. It is the largest public institution in southwestern Washington. Their Advanced Manufacturing and Mechanical curriculum pairs hands-on experience with real-world projects, making graduates of this program valuable to prospective employers. For example, the automotive program includes skills required for the Toyota Technician and Education Network (T-TEN) and the Honda Professional Automotive Career Training (PACT), which are highly prized at their respective companies.

Besides reaching out to college-aged students, some organizations are reaching out to students in the K–12 sector. Demonstrations and hands-on activities wow students at these ages. A simple demonstration at an elementary school can temporarily inspire many students, but a few for a lifetime. Students with a goal in mind likely achieve higher grades, ask the right questions, and have fewer behavioral problems in school.


IT3 Innovation Center

IT3, which stands for Innovation, Technology, Talent, and Training, is one such organization. Located in Port of Ridgefield, WA, in a 10,700 square foot facility, they connect communities with the resources needed to learn technology and automation. Besides community and educational outreach, the facility will help train workers for the automation careers of tomorrow. 


IT3 Innovation Center

Progress to far on the IT3 Innovation Center. Image used courtesy of IT3 Innovation Center


Four years of research, including conversations with industry representatives in Southwestern Washington, spawned the creation of IT3. Those industry professionals echoed what is heard across the nation, “We need more skilled technicians.” IT3 is seeking funding from government and industry sources, and is expected to be open and fully operational by the fall quarter of 2021.

Kevin Witte, VP of Innovation and Development for the Port of Ridgefield, explained to Control Automation:

The IT3 Innovation Center focuses on emerging Industry 4.0 technologies, especially as it relates to automation and the digitization of processes. We have just completed our new 10,400 square foot building. We will be highly market focused, changing our offerings overtime as demand for skills change. We will be focusing on:

  • Assisting K-12 school systems with advising, business linkages, and training for their technical faculty
  • Delivering industry leading short term (anywhere from 4 hours up to a month) training on technology to both new and incumbent workers
  • Providing a place where businesses can experience automation and try out options before investing in their own system
  • Applying research and technology transfer to our businesses of technologies around automation and Industry 4.0


While the pandemic has brought about the need for more automation, the industry is finding that many of its experienced technicians are retiring. Partnerships, such as Renishaw and CCAT, or expansions at colleges to include automation and technology laboratories, such as what is occurring at Clark College, and educational outreach organizations, such as IT3, will help supply the pipeline with fresh skilled technicians.