News & Events

Montana Bioscience Cluster Analysis Update

May 7th, 2013

It’s been over 10 years since RTS identified, analyzed and mapped Montana’s emerging bioscience cluster as part of a larger industrial cluster project for the Governor’s Office and Economic Development. This effort led to the creation of the Montana BioScience Alliance (MBSA) to support the growth and continued development of the cluster.

In 2012, RTS was commissioned to update its analysis of the composition and structure of Montana’s bioscience cluster and to survey the MBSA membership base to pinpoint its most pressing business issues and identify what services MBSA should offer its member companies going forward. The results of the bioscience cluster composition update and of the membership needs assessment are summarized in this edition of the MBSA directory along with a message from Montana’s new governor, Steve Bullock, a story on this year’s inductee into the Montana BioScience Hall of Fame and a review of MBSA and cluster developments by MBSA Executive Director, Sharon Peterson.

The 2013 Montana BioScience Directory and can be downloaded here.

Community Colleges’ Roles in Rebuilding America’s Manufacturing

March 21st, 2013

This paper summarizes the context, presentations, and discussions from a symposium on “The Future of Manufacturing: Implications for Community Colleges” that was held on Oct 1-2, 2012 in Covington, Kentucky. The event was sponsored by the Trans-Atlantic Technology & Training Alliance, an international alliance of community colleges managed by Regional Technology Strategies and the Danish Agency for Universities and Internationalisation, and co-hosted by TA3 member Gateway Community and Technical College. The final report can be read by using this link: Community Colleges and Manufacturing.

GrowGreenEd.Com Supporting Sustainable Food Systems - Now Launched!

December 27th, 2012

One of the most viable sectors in America’s manufacturing base is food production. A growing demand for local, sustainable, and artisan foods has generated new economic opportunities for small-scale food growing and production, from artisan cheeses to microbrews, in both rural and urban areas. The result is an emerging demand for new skills and knowledge, and community colleges reach a broader population base than do the current programs that are available through land grant colleges, cooperative extension, or agricultural organizations. Since sustainable food systems is a new area for most community colleges, to make it easier for them to test the waters, the Alliance for Sustainability has produced a new web site providing access to information about community college-level courses in all aspects of the sustainable food systems value chain (http://www.growgreened.com/). Created with a grant from the Appalachian Regional Commission and support from the Ford Foundation, the site enables community colleges to more easily and cost-effectively develop or expand programs for careers in sustainable food systems.

The Future of Manufacturing: Implications for Education and Training

December 27th, 2012

In early October, the TA3 took on the challenging task of discussing and debating the future of manufacturing in the U.S. and Europe and the challenges it presents for community colleges. With manufacturing employment in decline, the status of America’s industrial base has become a frequent news item and risen to the top of many policy debates and agendas. While one camp hopefully anticipates manufacturing returning en masse, as Apple proclaimed for its laptops, another sees a long-term structural shift towards highly automated processes or very specialized products at reduced levels of employment. One point of general agreement was the shortage of skilled labor. Some blamed schools and antiquated views of the industrial workplace while others questioned the degree to which some industries were willing to pay more more highly skilled workers.

At the series of events hosted by Gateway Community and Technical College in Covington, Kentucky October 1-2, nearly 100 participants from 18 states and 6 European countries heard from a variety leaders from government, education, and industry. Sponsors of the event included the Kentucky Science and Technology Corporation, National Institute of Standards and Technology-Manufacturing Extension Partnership, Duke Energy, Republic Bank, Automotive Manufacturing Technical Education Collaborative, Northern Kentucky Chamber of Commerce, and European-American Chamber of Commerce.

Some of the questions speakers were asked to address were: With expanding global competition, automation, and shifting consumer demand, what will regions with relatively high wage rates be able to make competitively in the years ahead? What are the short- and long-term prospects for the manufacturing base that has been so important to innovation and prosperity? What employment and entrepreneurial opportunities does the future hold? What skills and knowledge will be needed and what will the career paths be? Why are too few entering manufacturing career paths to replace an aging workforce?

While speakers and discussants represented a variety of places and interests, there was some convergence of opinion concerning the future of manufacturing. One was that manufacturing will continue to replace manual labor with automated equipment, keeping employment gains in manufacturing down but skill requirements up. Two of the speakers, Ted Hall of ShopBot and John Baines of Hahn Automation, produce automated equipment that require high levels of skill. They, and Phil Singerman from National Institute of Standards and Technology, discussed the need for greater investments in research and development and for more companies to adopt new technologies. John Winzeler from Winzeler Gears, a company that has been a pioneer in the use of automation, described how his company uses technology to produce high-volume, high-precision, zero defect gears.

A second theme was the increasing role of design and user-driven innovation. Lou Lenzi from GE Appliance talked about the importance of design, consumer behavior, and listening to the customer, and he described how their new Innovation Center works. George Konstantakis, president of Brooks Stevens in Wisconsin, explained how design thinking can achieve competitiveness, and Adam Friedman from the Pratt Institute described the value of conservation and how green design has influenced the industrial resurgence in New York. All saw an increasing consumer demand for green products and interests in sustainability.

Third, a number of speakers noted a growing interest in micro-manufacturing, and particularly the rise of additive manufacturing and accessibility of tools through shared facilities like Techshops. Ted Hall’s www.100kgarages.com is an effort to promote “garage” manufacturing as a “new ‘industrial’ revolution [with] social, open, distributed, local, small-scale, production.” Adam Friedman spoke about the rise of micro-manufacturing as an urban phenomenon and its growth in the Brooklyn Navy Yards. While a niche industry not likely to affect the manufacturing employment base, it does create a different image of manufacturing that can affect career plans and generate new products.

Fourth, as labor content decreases and design requirements increase, the value of proximity across the value chain increases. As geography matters more, companies will reduce their offshoring and look more to local suppliers. GE’s Appliance Park in Louisville is an example of production returning to the U.S.

The complementary strand of discussion was about skill and workforce needs. What skills, knowledge, and creativity will be needed in manufacturing? Again, a number of common themes were repeated.

A leading theme was better alignment of curricula with the needs of business and industry. One approach is expanded applications of apprenticeships and co-ops, as Hahn Automation does. Ross Meyer at Partners for a Competitive Workforce has formed Advanced Manufacturing Partnerships with industry, education, and non-profits to ensure alignment. A number of speakers representing community colleges described similar partnerships with industry clusters to achieve alignment with industry. Rebecca Nickoli of Ivy Tech talked about working with an orthopedics cluster and a power technology cluster, and Jeff Rafn from Northeast Wisconsin Technical College with a Marine Manufacturing Alliance. Dr. Rafn also set out the keys to success, which included create partnerships not contracts, demonstrate flexibility, create multiple lines of communications.

A second theme was a need for greater emphasis on skills that are conducive to innovation and design thinking. Lou Lenzi described GE’s approach to creative problem solving and systems design, George Konstantakis defined and explained design thinking,and Hanne Shapiro talked about the need to rethink delivery of technical education to produce creative as well as technically competent completers. Risto Raivio from the European Union saw vocational education becoming more academically oriented to produce more flexible graduates. John Winzeler has formed a partnership with the School of the Art Institute of Chicago to stimulate creativity in his work force. Gregg Bennett and Mike Hamm from the Alabama Technology Network, administered in part through community colleges, help make sure local companies have the skilled workforce to both support innovation and contribute to innovation.

A third area of discussion was the skills shortage, which seems to exist even in labor markets with high unemployment. Participants posed a number of reasons, from erroneous but popular impressions of the manufacturing workplace to reduced wages for jobs requiring higher skills. Nichola Lowe from the University of North Carolina argued that this narrow view of skill shortages often goes hand in hand with a growing educational bias that favors job seekers that have advanced degrees, often from four year institutions, and the assumption that skill is best acquired through formal education and undervaluing skills learned on the job.

Greg Rutherford at York Technical College in South Carolina addressed the shortage with an employer sponsored Tech Scholars program that matches half-time paid work with classroom-based education and results in a degree and possible job. Michael Gould added that Northern Ireland has to improve its completion rates to fill the pipeline to manufacturing with students that have the requisite STEM skills.

Fourth, the expanding opportunities for micro-manufacturing raises the level of need for entrepreneurship, highlighted by Ted Hall as a prerequisite for a “maker economy.” Jose Luis Maure described his agency’s support for entrepreneurs in schools of the Basque Country, from the skills, through business development and followup consulting and networking. Marjut Salminen also described a program at Tampere College in Finland for the fashion industry that integrated design with business and entrepreneurial skills.

Sustainability was a fifth theme, beginning with the work force, both to conserve energy and reduce waste but also to meet the employment needs associated with sustainability. Jeaninne La Prad discussed manufacturing innovations in energy and the environment and described a Frontline Green Worker certificate program and Hans Lehman talked about his college’s comprehensive approach to sustainability in southern Denmark.

A White Paper summarizing the discussions at the conference will be completed over the winter.

For full article and additional TA3 news, the new TA3 Connections, the newsletter of the Trans-Atlantic Technology And Training Alliance, is available at TA3’s website: http://www.ta3online.org/2012/08/22/ta3-connections-august-2012-volume-15-no-2/.

December TA3 Connections Newsletter

December 27th, 2012

The new TA3 Connections, the newsletter of the Trans-Atlantic Technology And Training Alliance, is available now.

Highlights include:

  • An overview of the TA3 2012 meeting, hosted by Gateway Community & Technical College in Kentucky on October 1-2, 2012. The symposium focused on the Future of Manufacturing: Implications for Education and Training.
  • The TA3 2013 meeting in Copenhagen on June 16-19, 2013 - TEC and EUC-Syd will cohost the 2013 meeting of the Trans-Atlantic Technology and Training Alliance on the theme of Workplace Learning: New Perspectives on the Dual System in a Changing Economy.
  • Community College Alliance for Sustainability Highlights including GrowGreenEd.com, Community Colllege Workshop on Sustainable Food Systems, and member updates for WVU-Parkersburg.
  • Miscellaneous Information and Events including The American Association of Community College’s 20th Workforce Development Institute 2013, Alfred State College’s Second Annual Sustainability Conference, RTI’s National Center for Innovation in Career and Technical Education, and German Marshall Fund’s Fellowships.
  • Member Profile of TEC, Copenhagen, Denmark.

The new TA3 Connections is available as a PDF at:

http://www.ta3online.org/wp-content/uploads/2012/03/ta3_conn_2_12.pdf.

Also available at TA3’s web site at http://www.ta3online.org/2012/08/22/ta3-connections-august-2012-volume-15-no-2/.

    2012 Kentucky Science & Innovation Strategy

    March 28th, 2012

    We recently completed a project for the Kentucky Science & Technology Corporation that updated our work from 1999 that led to Kentucky’s first science, innovation and technology plan. Not much has changed in technology since 1999 except maybe Facebook, Twitter, phones that are computers, GPSs and video cameras, nano-textiles, artificial livers and hearts, the iPod, hybrid cars, YouTube, drones, personal genome maps, 3-d printers and much better golf clubs. Read the rest of this entry »

    Three new RTS publications available

    February 23rd, 2012

    The first is our recently released report for the Appalachian Regional Commission assessing the workforce trends and needs of the ARC region’s increasingly important renewable and non-renewable energy clusters. The report, Energy Workforce Trends and Training Needs in Appalachia, also includes compelling case studies of exemplary training programs in all 13 ARC states meeting the needs of the industry.

    The second is Growth from the Ground Up: Community Colleges and Sustainable Food Systems, a conference report from the Alliance for Sustainability, a creation of RTS to network community colleges, held in September 2011 in Pittsboro, NC.

    Lastly, we’ve added a report from TA3, an international network of community and technical colleges, that details the information and best practices found during a study tour of Denmark that demonstrated their commitment to sustainability and green building and the technical training supporting it. The full report is available here.

    Webinar on green building & sustainability in Denmark

    February 23rd, 2012

    For those of you unable to make the February 21 webinar on green building and sustainability in Denmark, beginning with a visit to EUC-Syd, a technical vocational school in Denmark, you can still view and hear the material at this link.

    Below are some photos from the TA3 report on the study tour of Denmark that demonstrated their commitment to sustainability and the technical training supporting it. The full report is available here. Read the rest of this entry »

    The Daily Yonder on the Arts in Mississippi

    February 3rd, 2012

    The Daily Yonder is a wonderful resource for keeping up with the issues, challenges and opportunities facing rural America. We are pleased to have Bill Bishop, who is the main force behind the Daily Yonder, as a board member here at RTS.

    Our founder Stuart Rosenfeld has been working with the state of Mississippi over the last couple of years both looking at their creative economy as an economic and cultural engine but also at designing programs and policies to build a stronger creative economy within the state. Stu’s new article in the Daily Yonder gives a great overview of the creative economy in Mississippi and how it weaves into the state’s economy. A must-read for those interested in the creative economy.


    A juke joint in Clarksdale, Mississippi. It’s part of the annual Juke Joint Festival.

    New US Commerce Department report on US competitiveness

    January 6th, 2012

    The America COMPETES project of the US Commerce Department focuses on how we can out innovate, out educate, out connect, out produce and out empower the rest of the global economy. The project is a two year effort with an impressive advisory board. It culminated in the final report “The Competitiveness and Innovative Capacity of the United States” delivered today to Congress. You can download the full report or go to the main website to see videos or investigate the various elements of the effort.