Commerce authority, community colleges, tech leaders create advanced manufacturing certification

The Arizona Advanced Technology Network, a partnership between community colleges from three counties and several major technology, automation, aerospace and defense industry leaders, announced a new certification program to prepare the state’s workforce for careers in high-tech advanced manufacturing along the I-10 corridor.

“This is an exciting time for Arizona,” said Sandra Watson, president and CEO of the Arizona Commerce Authority (ACA), at the Intel Capital Global Summit in Phoenix. “We have led the nation in a number of innovative new policies around testing of new technologies — automated mobility is one of those.”

The Automation Industrial Certificate is an advanced manufacturing credential aligned to the National Institute for Metalworking Skills (NIMS) competencies, a foundation for entry into the advanced manufacturing industry.

“Under the guidance of the Arizona Commerce Authority Office of Economic Opportunity, the Maricopa County Community College District, Central Arizona Community College and Pima Community College signed a charter and formed the Arizona Advanced Technology Network,” the ACA said in a statement. “These schools are now offering curriculum to meet rigorous third-party industry credentialing standards.”

In addition to the Automation Industrial Certificate, students in the new Network will be able to earn an Associate of Applied Sciences in Automated Industrial Technology degree from all three community colleges by the 2019-2020 school year. Secondly, students can “stack” the curriculum from certificate to associate degree to bachelor’s degree if enrolled at Northern Arizona University.

“The NIMS certifications and AAS degrees can be used for entry- and mid-level technician positions within Arizona manufacturing companies,” the ACA said. “As an individual gains skills and experience, he or she may be employed in production, installation and repair, maintenance, logistics and inventory and quality assurance.”

The manufacturing industry in Arizona provides more than 162,000 jobs. According to the ACA, the density of advanced manufacturing businesses along the I-10 freeway in Pima, Pinal and Maricopa counties created the need for a program like the Advanced Technology Network.

Lucid Motors, a luxury electric car manufacturer determined to rival Tesla, will break ground later this year on its $1 billion production facility in Casa Grande and is expected to hire more than 2,000 new employees.

Nikola Motors, a zero-emissions hydrogen-powered commercial truck manufacturer, is projected to hire another 2,000 people for its plant in nearby Coolidge.

Tucson-based Raytheon Missile Systems, the state’s largest defense contractor, said it will hire up to 2,000 more employees for its manufacturing facility.

According to the ACA, these companies along with other major manufacturers such as Boeing, Benchmark Electronics and Intel will continue to draw from Arizona’s “skilled talent pipeline” to keep a competitive edge and continue to scale operations in the state.

Boeing, Raytheon and Lucid Motors all contributed to the development of the new advanced manufacturing curriculum.

“This initiative not only enhances the labor supply, it also serves as a tool in attracting more quality manufacturers to the region, making Arizona a destination of choice for high-value manufacturing firms, as access to skilled talent is a key driver for companies wishing to expand or relocate,” the ACA said.

Graham Bosch

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