Dear Business Community, Please Send Equipment and Money: Why Academic – Business Partnerships Matters
“Dear mom and dad, please send money!” Students have been sending this message to parents for ages. If you put yourself into the shoes of many colleges today, including two-year institutions offering technical education, you could rephrase it to say: “Dear business community, please help us provide equipment and funding we need and have trouble affording on our tight budget.”
We hear a lot about rising costs for education, but not much about what many schools need to prepare students for the modern workforce while working to keep costs down. It isn’t easy, and they can’t go it alone.
You might have seen earlier posts describing the in-kind donation we have made to Front Range Community College (FRCC) in Longmont, Colorado. They are expanding their technical training curricula to include an Electronics Engineering Technology program, which is designed to help students develop skills essential to jobs in modern manufacturing, skills that traditional technical training doesn’t provide.
I’ve worked closely with Ken Floyd, who is the Program Director and on the faculty at FRCC. In a recent conversation, he put things into perspective: “The equipment we need to teach critical automation process and RF power skills is very expensive. And if you don’t have that equipment, you can’t deliver the best learning experience.” Ken, who got technical training in the Air Force, is excited to provide “hands-on, real-world experience rather than teaching only out of the textbook.”
Students in Ken’s Electronics Engineering Technology course will already have had classes on the basics of electronics, including related mathematics, reading prints, assembly and soldering. They then build on those skills, digging into advanced electrical concepts, industrial wiring, digital devices, op amps, PLCs and microprocessors.
It’s during the Electronics Engineering Technology course in which the equipment we’ve donated – vacuum and RF power generation systems applicable to semiconductors, pharmaceuticals, biotech and other industries using etching and deposition processes – comes into the picture. Why that equipment you ask? Technical engineering skills for RF power are being de-emphasized in many electronics schools, yet a significant portion of our customers are using RF amplification in data communication. In turn, the technical support we provide often calls for RF expertise spanning from troubleshooting to repair. You can get a great overview of the industry need and earning potential by accessing this infographic, which includes data points such as:
- 51 percent of Colorado manufacturing companies identify addressing the current workforce shortage a top priority
- 1,300 new jobs in manufacturing are projected to be created in FRCC’s service area by 2026
- The average wage for manufacturing jobs in Colorado is $68K/year
I know from experience that once you truly understand how an RF system works, you can apply that insight into many different systems. Actually, like Ken, technical training has served as the foundation for my career.
My point is that while we’ve provided equipment specific to our niche, the skills gained promise to be valuable for students seeking careers in a range of industries, in-state and elsewhere. And as we all know, there’s great need for a new generation of technicians who have experience with unique, precision power-driven technologies. In addition to the industries I mentioned earlier, that includes hyperscale data centers, 5G wireless applications, or industrial and medical technologies – all relatively new use cases.
For the record, the “in-kind” part of the relationship means we assume that some of the talent we help bring along will become AE employees. We also are privileged to have the lab where the equipment is installed (in their new Center for Integrated Manufacturing) named the Advanced Energy Electronics Lab.
Finally, I encourage you to get involved, either on a personal or enterprise level. It would be an answer to a sincere call for help, and an investment into our industry. If you’d like to learn more about FRCC’s Center for Integrated Manufacturing, visit https://www.frontrange.edu/CIM.