Silicon Valley workforce shortage addressed in new alliance of manufacturers, educators

Guest blogpost by Emily McGrath, Deputy Director, Workforce Development, Education & Training, NextFlex;
and Brynt Parmeter, Director, Workforce Development, Education & Training, NextFlex

Creating a deep talent pipeline that will fuel the technology sector’s need for a creative, knowledgeable, skilled, and diverse workforce is a problem faced by many cities across America. The complexities of workforce development are amplified by the fact that this challenge can’t be solved by a single institution. To achieve real and lasting success, a range of ecosystem stakeholders who tend to operate in siloed activities must come together to achieve their common goal of recruiting, training, and retaining a skilled pool of talent.

In recognition of that truth, stakeholders across Silicon Valley are uniting to create a holistic pathway that provides students with the education, experience, opportunities, and networks they need to succeed in the tech economy. Led by a strategic partnership between Evergreen Valley College (EVC) and NextFlex, America’s Flexible Hybrid Electronics Institute, the collaborative initiative joins future-thinking companies, the City of San Jose, K-12 school districts, and aligned nonprofits.

“Working with manufacturers, early stage product companies and supply chains in San Jose, we are acutely aware of the workforce gap,” said Deputy Director of Economic Development Chris Burton. “OED and the City are delighted to support NextFlex and Evergreen Valley College in creating this seamless approach to helping find that talent in our high schools and colleges. We encourage companies in San Jose and beyond to get involved.” OED will be hosting an introductory event on May 17 for interested companies. (See the end of the article for details.)

Using an articulated set of platforms beginning with NextFlex’s flagship workforce development program FlexFactor®, the initiative reaches back into K-12 education and extends through EVC’s new Advanced Manufacturing Technology (AMT) & Internship program. This new program will include coursework co-developed and co-delivered with industry partners and will culminate with a formal work-based, for-credit, learning experience to seamlessly transition students to employment.  “This program represents the future,” says Dr. Maniphone Dickerson, the Dean of Business and Workforce Development at EVC. “We have to work together across the advanced manufacturing and technology community of interest to achieve real results for our students and our communities.”

The AMT program will launch in the fall of 2019, led by an Industry Advisory Board spearheaded by global advanced manufacturing companies Jabil, Cobham, and DuPont. NextFlex Executive Director Dr. Malcolm Thompson explained that this holistic approach “reflects the reality that workforce development isn’t a 60-day process. To build the deep, diversified, and highly skilled talent pool required by the innovative companies represented in Silicon Valley, a range of stakeholders must be willing to invest in linked primary, secondary, and post-secondary educational initiatives”.

By involving industry throughout the pathway, the initiative provides students with the immersive experiences necessary to spark their interest in the vast range of professional opportunity in the advanced manufacturing sector. Dan Gamota, Vice President of Engineering and Technology Services at Jabil, explained that “we see this as a strategic talent acquisition activity. By showcasing the ways next-generation technologies are changing the world, we attract a larger group of students into the talent pipeline, inspiring them to pursue the education pathways that will bring them back to us as future hires.”

Kelli Dutra, Manufacturing Engineering Manager at Cobham Defense Electronic Systems, added that “Our role in helping launch EVC’s Advanced Manufacturing Technology program does not end with curriculum creation. By continuing to engage with students throughout their educational journey, we will ensure that students emerge with the skills that we look for in our hires.”

Evergreen Valley College President Keith Aytch commented that the new Advanced Manufacturing Technology program “represents an innovative approach to education based on a traditional academic instruction balanced with hands-on, industry-based, experiential learning. By working with industry partners every step of the way, we ensure that we’re meeting the needs of both our industry partners and our students.”

More information about the program will be shared at the City-hosted Industry Partner Onboarding Meeting, May 17th, 2-4 PM. The meeting is open to companies in the manufacturing sector interested in being part of this innovative workforce development initiative, in San Jose and the South Bay. The event will be held in the Committee Rooms, in the Wing of San Jose City Hall, 200 East Santa Clara Street, San Jose, Calif., 95113. To learn more about the free event, and to register to save a seat, please visit the Eventbrite page.