The faculty and staff at Ohlone College – located at the heart of advanced manufacturing territory in Fremont – are constantly looking for ways to help prepare our students for the workforce.When we speak to local employers, it’s apparent that there is a real need to foster a talent base that has experience with Industry 4.0 technologies like additive manufacturing, robotics, and IoT, as well as robust critical thinking skills.

That need sparked the Ohlone College Smart Manufacturing Technology (SMTech) Program, an initiative that launched last year and was the culmination of a two-year effort focused on employer engagement. We curated an advisory roundtable consisting of many local employers, policymakers, business leaders, and local government partners (including the City of Fremont Economic Development team) to further explore the skill gap and how our curriculum could address it.

Through the SMTech program, Ohlone College provides new, state-of-the-art facilities for students to learn in, opportunities for internship placement at local companies, and excellent student support services to ensure academic and career success. Students who complete their Associate’s Degree in Smart Manufacturing Technology are qualified to begin careers as smart factory technicians and operators, process and maintenance technicians, IoT technicians, and more.

Flash forward to today, the program is in its second year of the NSF-ATE funded student internship project and continues to foster industry-academia engagement through a variety of collaborative initiatives with industry partners.

This summer, Ohlone College partnered with eight companies, including Tesla, ScanIt Technologies, PrinterPrezz, Evolve Manufacturing, ElringKlinger, Biolytic, atHUM, and Texas-based SVTronics, to provide internship experiences (both virtual and in-person) for 20 Ohlone College students. The NSF-ATE Grant, “Smart Advanced Manufacturing in the Silicon Valley,” awarded to Ohlone College in 2019, supported these internships

The NSF-ATE grant is instrumental in supporting the creation of a diverse workforce both in the Silicon Valley and nationally. These internships provide students with the much need experiential and project-based learning opportunities, and has helped historically underrepresented and underserved students overcome the “imposter syndrome” that oftentimes is a barrier to pursuing engineering and other STEM careers. Participating students are able to build confidence and a sense of belonging in the field through internships, therefore increasing retention and success rates of Ohlone College graduates in the field.

Additionally, the program recently received recognition as a finalist for the East Bay Innovation Awards. Presented by the East Bay Economic Development Alliance, the East Bay Innovation Awards celebrate and honor the extraordinary companies and organizations that contribute to the East Bay’s legacy of innovation. The education category recognizes organizations pioneering innovative programs and initiatives to build a strong talent pipeline for a 21st century workforce. Winners will be announced on October 15, 2020.

As we look forward to the coming year, I want to extend my appreciation to the City of Fremont, Growth Sector, the College Administration, and the SMTech program faculty and staff who have worked hard to make this program a success: Tina Kapoor (City of Fremont), Mayor Lily Mei (City of Fremont), Dave Gruber (Grant Co-PI), Gabe Hanzel-Sello (Director at Growth Sector), Shivakumar Mathapathi (Faculty), Jeff O’Connell (Faculty) Marina Gonzalez (Student Support Specialist), Dr. Lori Silverman (Dean), Dr. Andrew Lamanque (Executive Dean), Dr. Anthony DaSilvo (Vice President of Academic Affairs), Sara Goldware (Director of Strong Workforce), and Dr. Eric Bishop (President).

We are eager to continue being a part of the solution to increase diversity, inclusion and equity in smart manufacturing, engineering, and engineering technology.