Randy Schofield
Randy Schofield
Northeast Iowa Community College (NICC) and Southwest Wisconsin Technical College (Southwest Tech) have named Randy Schofield to the director position of a new Tri-State Advanced Manufacturing Center for Excellence.

A current NICC Computerized Numerical Control (CNC) instructor at the Peosta campus and an advanced manufacturing professional with 17 years of experience in the machining industry, Schofield will begin his duties as director in July and lead the partnership between the two colleges that addresses manufacturing workforce skills shortages in Northeast Iowa and Southwest Wisconsin.

The goals of the Tri-State Advanced Manufacturing Center for Excellence include meeting regional demands for workforce development, specialized training, consulting, technical assistance, prototyping, and research and development. A formal partnership between the two colleges and federal grant funding awarded to Iowa's 15 community colleges is making the venture possible and will train workers for middle-skill level employment in the local manufacturing jobs sector.

"Southwest Tech and NICC have a long history of working toward being as responsive as possible to the needs of regional employers," stated NICC President Dr. Liang Chee Wee.

"This collaborative partnership focuses on advanced manufacturing and is one more way that both colleges can help assure our mission's relevance and that we are serving the needs of our industry partners."

In his role as the director of the Tri-State Advanced Manufacturing Center for Excellence, Schofield will coordinate efforts between manufacturing employers and non-credit and credit programs that prepare students for careers in advanced manufacturing, including NICC programs in welding, CNC, electronic technology, industrial maintenance, mechanical engineering technology and other Southwest Tech programs in welding, electromechanical technology, engineering technologist and CNC operator/setup.

A second round, four-year grant from the Department of Labor's Trade Adjustment Assistance Community College and Career Training (TAACCCT) program will provide funding for the position along with additional financial support through a cost sharing investment by Southwest Tech.

Des Moines Area Community College is leading the statewide grant consortium, known as the "Iowa-Advanced Manufacturing (I-AM): A Talent Success Strategy for the 21st Century Workforce" project.

The state's 15 community colleges, including NICC, will receive a portion of the $12.9 million in grant funds to collaboratively build training capacity at community colleges by developing and awarding certificates (non-credit and credit), diplomas, and associate's degrees in the welding, machining, industrial maintenance, industrial automation, manufacturing technology, robotics, and transportation and logistics programs.

"Both institutions are dedicating resources to this new position because it will assist our colleges in developing innovative tools, resources and processes to strengthen regional employers, as well as both colleges' talent development strategies related to advanced manufacturing careers," explained Southwest Tech President Dr. Duane M. Ford.

"As we continue to address the middle-skills workforce gap, we are excited about all the opportunities an advanced manufacturing center for excellence will offer this region."

NICC officials view their new center's director as a great match with a balanced set of talents and networking skills.

"Randy Schofield can communicate effectively in both an educational setting and within the manufacturing industry," said Dr. Wendy Mihm-Herold, vice president of NICC Business and Community Solutions.

"In addition to his professional machinist expertise and talents as a CNC instructor in post-secondary education, he also has solid experience in forming manufacturing industry partnerships through outreach and project planning," she said.

Funding through the I-AM grant will support curriculum alignment of the CNC, Industrial Maintenance and Welding programs at NICC with the National Association of Manufacturing (NAM) competencies; provide resources to enhance credit programs and non-credit, four-month CNC and Welding certification programs; and develop non-credit skills enhancement curricula for students enrolled in the new Industrial Maintenance program. Other funds will provide students with advising and career coaching services and contextualized math coursework.

Schofield plans to achieve several goals this year in partnership with Southwest Tech and the colleges' employment partners, Workforce Investment Act and IowaWorks. The Tri-State Advanced Manufacturing Center will lead efforts to incorporate National Career Readiness Certification into current curricula to identify job readiness of program graduates; incorporate non-credit certification program courses into pathways of established NICC credit programs in CNC, industrial maintenance and welding at the Peosta campus; and hire a career coach to provide employment assistance for participants. For its portion of the statewide I-AM grant, NICC has set its enrollment goal to serve 148 participants who enter any one of the programs offered.

Other priorities for the current year include developing an accelerated basic skills training model for participants who need assistance in math, working with industry leaders through advisory boards and cultivating statewide talent development systems that prepare employees for high demand advanced manufacturing occupations.

Schofield's office will be located at the NICC Town Clock Center for Professional Development at 680 Main St. in Dubuque.