Penn State Leadership In PA Technology Workforce Development
The Need and The Penn State Response
Both government and industry agree that any significant manufacturing that finally remains in the US will require a well educated workforce skilled in “twenty-first century” manufacturing and quality control methodologies. The Council on Competitiveness, the National Academy of Sciences, and the National Governor’s Association are just a few of the important national organizations currently voicing this view. These manufacturing and quality control methodologies will be based on micro- and nanofabrication and micro- and nano-scale materials characterization. It is also generally agreed that the element of the workforce that will be critical to keep a strong US manufacturing presence will be the two-year degree and four-year degree graduates.
Penn State began addressing this workforce development issue in August 1998 when then-governor Tom Ridge inaugurated what has become known as the Pennsylvania Nanofabrication Manufacturing Technology (NMT) Partnership. This Penn State approach to workforce development was and is based on sharing the micro- and nanotechnology expertise and facilities of one of the nation’s leading research universities with two-year degree as well as four-year degree programs across the Commonwealth. The goal is to create a PA workforce that is educated in “twenty-first century” manufacturing and quality control. Since its inception, this partnership and resource sharing for the betterment of Pennsylvania has grown to encompass the Pennsylvania Commission for Community Colleges, the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education (PASSHE), the Pennsylvania College of Technology, The Pennsylvania State University, Industry, State government, and the National Science Foundation. Today Penn State teaches the “Capstone Semester”, a hands-on immersion in micro-and nanotechnology, as a service for the Partnership three times a year at Penn State’s University Park campus. This “Capstone Semester” is used in 33 associate degree programs and in 21 baccalaureate degree programs as well as in certificate programs by institutions across Pennsylvania. Today 27 two-year and four-year degree institutions “own” these six courses taught by Penn State and have these courses listed as their offerings in their course catalogues. In addition to the unique, shared “Capstone Semester”, the Partnership now also offers one-day and three-day Nanotech Camps for secondary school students, nanotechnology workshops for educators, programs for bringing nanotechnology into the secondary school curricula, programs for post-secondary school curriculum enhancement, incumbent worker training, and industry workshops. Penn State’s response to this need for a skilled PA workforce has been in the highest tradition of its Land Grant mission. The University has responded by bringing access to the very latest in “the mechanical arts” to every corner of Pennsylvania.
High school students participating in a Nanotech Camp Secondary school teachers participating in a workshop
State-Wide Workforce Development
From its beginning, the Partnership was envisaged by Penn State as a State-wide program bringing education and workforce development in micro- and nanotechnology manufacturing and quality control to every corner of Pennsylvania and to every interested student regardless of facilities, capabilities, or size of the Partner institution that the student is attending. It has developed into just that. The Partnership does not require Partner institutions to garner a critical mass of students to participate. Instead institutions have adjusted their courses and curricula to insure the skill set for the “Capstone Semester” is attained. Then, in a given semester, an institution can send 1, 2, or whatever number of students qualify at the time to Penn State's University Park Campus for the “Capstone Semester”. The critical number of students is needed only at University Park for the defining hands-on “Capstone Semester” exposure to micro- and nanotechnology taught by experienced instructors using state-of-the-art equipment and facilities. With this approach, these enabling personnel and facilities need to be located in only one place. The Partnership stresses a very general approach to workforce development with the objectives of (1) providing a solid, broad information base that an individual can build upon, throughout his or her career, and (2) creating a versatile micro- and nanotechnology workforce that can move from industry to industry with the ebb and flow of international market forces. In all Partnership activities, “Capstone Semester” students, Nanotech Camp students, post-secondary students, and educators alike are all exposed to a broad spectrum of micro- and nanotechnology manufacturing and quality control methods and to applications from textiles and forestry products to medicine and from electronics and information storage to quantum computing.
The two-year and four-year degree Partnership students attending the “Capstone Semester” come from institutions with widely differing tuition rates and yet the cost of this hands-on experience is obviously the same for all. To “level the playing field” and allow all these students access to this workforce development program, the State of Pennsylvania makes
Partnership students attending a “Capstone Semester” lecture up the difference between a student‘s Partner institution tuition and the actual cost of the “Capstone Semester”. This also makes the program “seamless” for the student since he or she simply pays the tuition of the institution in which they are enrolled. Since many of the students live at home while at their Partner institutions, the State also provides a room and board grant for the semester spent at Penn State. This Partnership resource-sharing model, which brings micro- and nanotechnology expertise, equipment, and facilities to students in every corner of Pennsylvania, would not be possible without this State support.
Some Partnership Achievements
The Partnership has shown it is possible to bring educational opportunities in “twenty-first century” manufacturing and quality control methods to every corner of Pennsylvania. Under Penn State’s leadership, the Partnership has become a national role model for the workforce development need to keep a competitive manufacturing base in the US. The Partnership’s education model has already been implemented in Minnesota (under the leadership of the University of Minnesota) and is in various stages of implementation in Illinois, California, Texas, Oklahoma, and Arkansas.
The table below outlines some specific accomplishments of the Partnership. One of the proudest accomplishments of the Partnership may be seen in the fact that 36% of the students who complete the “Capstone Semester” continue on to four-year degrees.
• National leadership role as a NSF Advanced Technological Education Center • 33 associate degree programs at 21 institutions (12 PA community colleges, the Pennsylvania College of Technology, Millersville U., Lock Haven U., and five Penn State University Colleges (222 completers to date) • 21 baccalaureate programs at 10 institutions (7 State System universities, Pennsylvania College of Technology, and Penn State Berks Campus (41 completers to date) • Creation of 2+ 2 as well as 2+2+2 nanotechnology education pathways • 708 educators and industry personnel completed workshops • 987 secondary students completed Nanotech Camps • 405 students have completed the “Capstone Semester” • 62% of these students are employed • 36% of these students are continuing their education • 2% of these students are seeking employment
Some Samples of what "They're saying" about the PA Partnership
“We recently hired an NMT grad about three months ago. We hired him on a Friday and he got in there on Monday and he just hit the floor running. I mean he’s been great so far. He’s in device testing and we’re so pleased with his performance.” ➢ Kelly Weinheimer, Human Resource Manager, Plextronics, Inc.
“Our company has hired nine graduates that I have working right now and the thing that we find out of the graduates is a certain mind set and ability that goes beyond where you might expect … how they’ve done? They’ve done very well.” ➢ Earl Johns, Seagate Technology
“These NMT technicians have more processing experience, and they see the big semiconductor picture.” ➢ Fairchild Semiconductor
“You have the best workforce development program in the country. You are to be congratulated” ➢ Dr. Robert Chan, Northwestern University
“I've always talked about your education programs as being jewels in the crown.” ➢ Dr. Lawrence Goldberg, Science Fellow National Science Foundation
PA Partnership Quality and Popularity Recognition as Measured by the Web
(1) Under a Yahoo search “Nanotechnology Education” (as of 4-5-07): The Partnership is - listed first - listed in 4 of the top 10 hits
(2) Under a Google search “Nanofabrication Education” (as of 4-5-07): The Partnership is - listed first - listed in 7 of the top 10 in hits