RANDOLPH — Vermont Technical College (VTC) has received an $8 million contract from the U.S. Army’s Industrial Base Analysis and Sustainment (IBAS) office as part of its National Imperative for Industrial Skills.
The funding, which was secured by Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., will establish Vermont’s first advanced manufacturing education, research and development facility.
The new center, located in Randolph Center, will bring together students, faculty, and Vermont manufacturers to educate the next-generation workforce in cutting-edge additive manufacturing engineering and design and support manufacturing innovation, Leahy's office said in a written statement. After conversations with Vermont businesses and Vermont Technical College (VTC), Leahy secured funding for the IBAS program in the Fiscal Year 2020 Department of Defense Appropriations Bill.
The grant comes at a time when Vermont and the nation are experiencing a critical shortage of manufacturing capability and workforce, and while the state’s postsecondary attainment needs continue to grow. The U.S. Army’s IBAS program is designed to strategically invest in the civilian manufacturing design, engineering, and production sector to ensure capability in the event of a national emergency. The center will further tailor VTC's educational programs to the real-world needs of Vermont manufacturers, according to the college.
“To retain and increase manufacturing jobs Vermonters need cutting edge training,” Leahy said. “The VTC advanced manufacturing facility will ensure that more Vermonters have the training and skills to match the latest generation of manufacturing jobs. By expanding and strengthening Vermont Tech’s position as a leader in this field, this collaborative public-private partnership will open new career opportunities to Vermonters and contribute to Vermont Tech’s bright future. It was important to me that this facility be located on the school’s Randolph Center campus, ensuring that Vermont manufacturers around the state will have the ability to partner and benefit from this important skill training.”
“Vermont Tech is uniquely positioned both geographically in the state and with existing employer partnerships to advance additive manufacturing for our economy, said VTC President Patricia Moulton. “By preparing students to be the next-generation engineers and industrial designers with state-of-the-art equipment and practices, the college is further positioned as the premier college for engineering and manufacturing education in the region. We are profoundly grateful to Senator Leahy and the IBAS for their support of the college and our industry partners.”
VTC has been working to respond to the changing skill needs in manufacturing. Using a grant from the Defense Department’s Office of Economic Adjustment, VTC and the Vermont Agency of Commerce and Community Development launched the Vermont Manufacturing Collaborative (VT-MC), a partnership of manufacturers dedicated to supporting growth of design, prototyping, and production using additive manufacturing, a set of state-of-the-art techniques that allow products to be built to exacting specifications, in record time. With the funding from IBAS, VTC will expand its advanced manufacturing engineering labs with critical new equipment and staff. The grant will also allow the further expansion of VT-MC, which will use the new equipment and renovated facilities for prototyping, test-bed development, and small batch manufacturing.
Tim Holmes, Vice President for Engineering, GW Plastics said his company is excited about the new program. “It is a tremendous opportunity to participate in the development of a hands-on curriculum focused on additive manufacturing technologies that will become a pipeline for students transitioning into our future workforce,” he said. “GW Plastics manufactures safety-critical products where lives are dependent upon the highest quality every day. Furthering our knowledge of 3D technology and other innovations is critical to improving our manufacturing excellence.”
“The Vermont Manufacturing Collaborative is great news for Vermont and economic development,” said Chris Carrigan of the Vermont Chamber of Commerce. “It will strengthen collaboration between industry and higher education, provide Vermont’s $3 billion dollar manufacturing sector with a skilled workforce for the 21st Century, and give Vermont’s manufacturers a strategic resource and advantage. With ready access to research and development, state-of-the art technology and equipment, and support services our manufacturers will be able to tap new markets and business opportunities, and, in doing so, help grow Vermont’s economy.”