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Project MFG™ Accelerates Students’ Career Passion

On December 3-5, 2019, Project MFG™: Next Generation Manufacturing™ Challenge from the United States Department of Defense took place at the Sierra College Gene Haas Center for Advanced Manufacturing by Design in Rocklin.  Project MFG™ holds competitions across the country to address the need for a skilled engineering and shop floor manufacturing workforce in the United States to compete in global markets. Kennedy High School, Rocklin High School and Yuba College teams competed in the challenge to produce a complex part made of aluminum.

For the first time in the competition’s history, a high school team won. Not only did Kennedy High School out-perform the other competitors, the Sacramento team did it with only three rather than the usual four students participating. The Kennedy team will go on to the next level and a chance to participate in the national competition at the International Manufacturing Technology Show (IMTS) in Chicago, September 2020.

… instills confidence in their ability to perform at the highest industrial base standards when it counts for a company.

Adele Ratcliff, Director, Industrial Base Analysis and Sustainment Program, Office of Industrial Policy, within the Office of the Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Industrial Policy, presented the awards and cash prizes. “It’s exciting to witness America’s Next Great Generation compete under pressure against world class standards,” said Ratcliff. “It brings out the best in them and instills confidence in their ability to perform at the highest industrial base standards when it counts for a company.”  

Project MFG™ is designed to allow the individual, the instructor and the school to benchmark themselves against the best, explained Ratcliff.  “Project MFG™ not only pushes their skills, but pushes their thinking and approach to be more advanced in a teamed approach,” said Ratcliff. The competition was developed to ignite interest in Advanced Manufacturing careers to address the deficit in trade skill talent that is not keeping pace with the current resurgence of U.S. manufacturing and prepare students for manufacturing jobs that require people to work collaboratively across the manufacturing floor.

Sierra College was honored to host the United States Department of Defense competition, according to Amy Schulz, Ph.D., Dean of Career, Continuing and Technical Education. “With the support of the Haas Education Foundation, Sierra College has built an Advanced Manufacturing lab with industry standard CNC tools as a regional resource,” said Schulz. “To increase awareness of meaningful careers in manufacturing, Sierra College was pleased to welcome the national Project MFG™ to our Rocklin campus. With the goal of preparing our local workforce with manufacturing skills, the CNC lab is also used for industry employee training and Sierra College recently developed Advanced Manufacturing courses and introduced a new certificate.” 

Industry partners from Lincoln Electric®, Haas Automation Inc. and ZEISS as well as the team from the Department of Defense were on site during the competition to provide technical support for the students who had access to Sierra College’s Haas CNC and welding tools, explained Tom Tholen, Project MFG™. “At this friendly competition, I witnessed more collaboration between the teams than usual and was impressed by the students’ professionalism,” said Tholen. “These students are on the fast track to satisfying Advanced Manufacturing careers with starting salaries of $70,000+ where they can make an impact on the world.”

This was the first time that his students had participated in the challenge, explained Dan Frank, Advanced Manufacturing Instructor, Rocklin High School. “I just wanted them to have fun applying their skills in a new environment,” said Frank. “Working in the Sierra College Advanced Manufacturing lab took them out of their comfort zone and challenged their team work and technical skills. Ultimately, participating builds their confidence and makes careers in this industry more intriguing.”

Our greatest challenges that require a product solution–from climate change to medicine to national security– require manufacturing to bring that to reality.

The Department of Defense’s Ratcliff encouraged students to pursue manufacturing careers where their skills can make a difference. “Our greatest challenges that require a product solution–from climate change to medicine to national security– require manufacturing to bring that to reality,” said Ratcliff. 

“There is more than one way to serve your country—being in manufacturing provides economic prosperity for our country as well as the individual.  And a strong manufacturing economy underpins our national security. Individuals entering the manufacturing profession will have a career path that will continue to advance and challenge them professionally as well as providing an ability to live almost anywhere in the world with this profession.”