Posted April 29, 2022
Lorain County Community College (LCCC) in partnership with NextFlex hosted U.S. Department of Labor Secretary Martin J. Walsh during his Ohio visit on Friday, April 29. Secretary Walsh highlighted how the proposed Bipartisan Innovation Act will advance U.S. global leadership in the technologies of the future. The visit included a workforce development roundtable that also featured representatives from NextFlex, a Manufacturing USA institute focused on printed flexible electronics, and The Boeing Company.
Walsh highlighted the importance of collaboration between STEM education and advanced manufacturing career pathways.
“We have the opportunity to make sure that when young people think about their career path, they think about going into advanced manufacturing to create things like microchips that move our economy forward,” Walsh said.
In her opening remarks, LCCC President Marcia J. Ballinger, Ph.D. said it was fitting to be holding the forum in the college’s Campana Center for Ideation and Invention.
“Inside the Campana Center is North America’s first Super Fab, designated by the Fab Foundation out of MIT’s Center for Bits and Atoms. We foster this philosophy: If you can dream it, you can make it. If you can make it, you can manufacture it. Right here. In Lorain County, Ohio — in the United States,” Dr. Ballinger said.
During the forum, The Boeing Company announced it is awarding over $1.1 million toward the expansion of two advanced manufacturing workforce development initiatives developed by NextFlex. Spanning nine ecosystems, the funding will increase access to both the FlexFactor and Flex2Future™ programs for high school and college-aged students.
LCCC has been a NextFlex partner since 2015 and was the first organization outside of San Jose, California to replicate FlexFactor. The outreach, recruitment and STEM education program familiarizes K-12 students with advanced manufacturing technology, entrepreneurship and the education and career pathways that can lead to a STEM career.
“The program was a natural fit for Lorain County Community College given our nationally recognized strength in semiconductor and microelectronic manufacturing as well as entrepreneurship,” said Dr. Ballinger.
With support from the LCCC Foundation, the college launched the program in 2018 with 13 students in Elyria City Schools. Among LCCC’s student participants to date, 39% are students of color, 70% are from underserved communities and 49% are young women.
Since then, the program has expanded statewide to 13 community colleges and has reached nearly 3,000 Ohio students, providing more opportunities for diverse students to participate. The expansion of the program beyond Lorain County was made possible by a $5 million investment through the Manufacturing Engineering Education Program of the U.S. Department of Defense.
“Today’s visit by Secretary Walsh and announcement by The Boeing Company underscores the national importance of the FlexFactor program and its ability to provide equitable opportunities in STEM education, entrepreneurship and innovation,” Dr. Ballinger said. “With dual enrollment and career technical education at LCCC, we are giving younger generations the opportunity to be immersed in learning experiences that expose students to the in-demand jobs of the future.”