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Allegheny College Lab Expands to Meet Regional Workforce Development Needs

Partnership with local manufacturers to upskill workers for emerging technology

Published: Wednesday, November 22, 2023 - 11:59

(Allegheny College: Meadville, PA) -- Allegheny College, one of the nation’s oldest and most innovative four-year colleges, has announced the expansion of the Allegheny Lab for Innovation and Creativity (ALIC) to bring workforce development and education resources into the community. In partnership with the regional precision manufacturing industry, Allegheny College will play a central role in the economic resurgence of Crawford County in response to the more-than 20% growth in aerospace, research and information technology industries in recent years combined with a decline in skilled workers for these positions. ALIC will equip the regional workforce to adapt to emerging technological development and advances in business operations and help businesses future-proof by providing research and development opportunities.

The newly opened ALIC@Bessemer will bring the educational mission of Allegheny College directly to community and industry partners. Led by Byron Rich, assistant provost of academic innovation and chair of the art department, the three-story space is designed to mimic a real-world environment, providing off-site training and onboarding opportunities so industry partners can avoid production-line shutdowns for this purpose. The advanced manufacturing equipment in the facility includes five-axis CNC machines, electrical discharge machining, additive manufacturing, automation technologies, mechatronics, research laboratories, quality assurance technologies, and computer labs that were all selected based on input from 25 organizations across Western Pennsylvania. The first industry workshops were launched this summer and focused on Solidworks, an industry standard 3D-modeling software taught by Acutec engineer Tom Swanberg.

ALIC expands to meet regional workforce development needs

“When regional manufacturers identified a critical need for options to train their workforce, the leadership at Allegheny College immediately began to explore ways in which they could assist,” says Jim Becker, executive director of the Economic Progress Alliance of Crawford County. “By building on the ALIC model and expanding industry offerings, manufacturing businesses now have a local educational partner positioned to upskill the existing workforce in order to meet continuous technological advancements. This partnership between regional manufacturers and Allegheny College will have an immediate and long-lasting positive impact on Crawford County and the greater Northwest Pennsylvania region.”

Building upon Allegheny’s historic strengths as a leading undergraduate research institution, ALIC integrates its liberal arts foundation with emerging technologies toward transformative student outcomes. Established in 2019, ALIC is an ecosystem of resources that provides students, and now community partners, hands-on experience with emerging and established digital fabrication and design technology to design and build prototypes of products, artistic projects, video games, smart devices, and anything else they can imagine.

In addition to partnerships for regional workforce development, the ALIC empowers Allegheny College students through:
• Co-op opportunities for students to learn from industry leaders in coursework focused on technological innovation and skills
• Microcredentials embedded in the Allegheny curriculum for students to demonstrate skills acquired through coursework and internships
• Manufacturing Advanced Placement Program in association with Acutec provides Allegheny graduates with employment and full funding toward a Master’s of Manufacturing Management
• NWPA Innovation Beehive Network node focused on sustainability provides startups with insights into developing sustainable supply chains, development of energy solutions, and other sustainable practices.

“The expansion of ALIC@Bessemer effectively applies Allegheny College’s innovative approach to education and solving problems through multiple perspectives,” says Allegheny president Ron Cole. “Our partnerships with the region’s precision manufacturing industries are unique for a liberal arts college and empower what we can accomplish through collaboration. We look forward to our continued work with the Economic Progress Alliance and industry partners to meet the workforce needs of our region and provide our undergraduate students with skills for jobs of the future.”

Future plans for ALIC@Bessemer include a research and development hub where regional companies, alumni-owned businesses, students, and professors will work together to generate solutions to industry problems. The R&D hub will also serve as an incubator for student-led startups. This expansion solidifies Allegheny College’s position as a national leader in the intersection of the liberal arts and emerging technologies with a focus on workforce and economic development.

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For 40 years Quality Digest has been the go-to source for all things quality. Our newsletter, Quality Digest, shares expert commentary and relevant industry resources to assist our readers in their quest for continuous improvement. Our website includes every column and article from the newsletter since May 2009 as well as back issues of Quality Digest magazine to August 1995. We are committed to promoting a view wherein quality is not a niche, but an integral part of every phase of manufacturing and services.