Creating a Pipeline to Talent: The Connected Systems Institute’s Manufacturing Workforce Innovation Program

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The Fourth Industrial Revolution delivers affordable technologies that provide a seemingly endless supply of possibilities with the potential to add tremendous value to business. Why, then, are so many manufacturers slow to implement advanced manufacturing?

Recent industry reports reveal that it is not just new technology that prevents manufacturers from adopting Industry 4.0 methods and achieving their business success; rather, the chief concern is finding, training, and retaining the right talent. In Wisconsin alone, 83% of 400 employers surveyed in 2021 by the Wisconsin Center for Manufacturing & Productivity stated they were having difficulty finding the right talent.  (Read the report.)

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Enter the Connected Systems Institute (CSI) at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. Launched in 2018, CSI is one of UWM’s flagship strategic partnerships. Located on UWM’s campus, the CSI facility is a 10,000-square-foot state-of-the-art simulated manufacturing plant representing the IIoT-connected factory of the future. The laboratory space provides a work environment for students and researchers to experiment with new concepts and test IIoT solutions across domains specific to manufacturing. To address the critical manufacturing talent shortage, CSI’s Manufacturing Workforce Innovation Program (MWIP) is developing a suite of specialized courses for those already in—or seeking to move into—advanced manufacturing careers.

Two new courses geared for working professionals

MWIP provides comprehensive, flexible training needed to navigate the Industry 4.0 manufacturing environment. These courses are driven by industry demand and developed by UWM’s faculty and industry subject matter experts. With support from a generous grant from the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation, CSI launched two MWIP courses this spring: Digital Manufacturing Leadership and Microsoft Azure in Manufacturing.

Designed with busy working professionals in mind, the self-paced courses are accessible from computers or portable devices when schedules permit. The lessons are brief and organized into weekly modules of learning, which include instructor videos and downloadable content. Participants get to interact with and learn from their peer cohort and meet weekly online for real-time learning with instructors. Courses also include in-person, hands-on exercises at CSI’s facility and access to keynote events. Both courses are enrolling fall cohorts.

Comprehensive suite of courses being developed

CSI is continuing to develop a comprehensive suite of MWIP offerings, which will further enable manufacturers to effectively adopt AI, machine learning, and deep learning technologies and be more competitive in Industry 4.0. The forthcoming courses, which will be offered starting in spring 2023, include:

  • Fundamentals of Networking for Industrial Control Systems
  • Operational Technology Cybersecurity
  • Fundamentals of Robotics in Manufacturing
  • Industrial Automation and Controls
  • Integrated Robotics for Manufacturing
  • Data Structuring for Advanced Manufacturing
  • Augmented Reality and Virtual Reality in Manufacturing
  • Digital Twins in Manufacturing
  • Industrial Internet of Things and Smart Sensors

While MWIP courses are currently available as non-credit, badge-earning courses, CSI is developing these future courses to be dual credit-bearing for both UWM and Gateway Technical College students.

Interested in partnering with CSI or know someone who is? Visit the CSI website.