Viewing blog posts written by Gino DiCaro

Maker spaces & 'boot camps' are California's new feeders for technical skills

Posted by Gino DiCaro, VP, Communications on March 17, 2016

Maker and co-working spaces, sometimes known as "boot camps", are becoming key intersections between regional manufacturers' needs and local students' skills development. They create the ability for students to learn quickly the skills they need to get a high wage opportunity with a regional manufacturer who needs technical workers.

A recent example got our attention. Tyler Hill, a Sierra College Electro Mechanical Engineering major from Lincoln, California, recently got a job working for a consumer transaction technology manufacturer, NCR Corporation, in part because of his participation in a maker space "boot camp" for entrepreneurs in the northern California area. 

The camp known as Hacker Lab / Startup Hustle partnered with Sierra College and the Center for Applied Competitive Technologies in a private public partnership to improve students’ employability.

Hill had joined Hacker Lab to access the CNC and laser cutting tools, and then applied to participate in Startup Hustle to work on the home automation system he developed with another student. “Putting this experience on my resume helped me stand out and get a job as an ATM Engineer,” said Hill.  “I enjoy the work and am even more confident in my plan to transfer to a California State University engineering program.”

“Employers are seeking innovators who will develop better products to meet customers’ needs and contribute to business growth,” said Willy Duncan, Superintendent/President, Sierra College Joint Community College District. “At Hacker Lab, Sierra College students work alongside a diverse group of experts and artisans to test and hone skills learned in their college classes. As a result, students add practical experience and cutting edge skills in coding, virtual reality and 3D printing to their resumes.”

Hill explained that he developed new skills to create a prototype product at Hacker Lab. “I had no idea how to make a printed circuit board,” said Hill. “But after three weeks of practice at Hacker Lab, I could make a perfect board from scratch.”

Carol Pepper-Kittredge, Director, Center for Applied Competitive Technologies, Sierra College, helped plan the Hacker Lab Powered by Sierra College in Rocklin. “To attract students to Advanced Manufacturing careers and provide businesses access to technology and training, Sierra College equipped the maker space with electronics, 3D printers, laser cutter and CNC router,” said Pepper-Kittredge.

Startup Hustle teams attend weekly online and in-person training sessions led by successful founders of businesses. In addition, industry mentors coach the teams. “The mentors were genius,” said Hill. “They were more than technical experts; they collaborated with us to think through sales and marketing.”

In just one year, Sacramento-based Hacker Lab worked with Sierra College to find an off-campus location in Rocklin, California, fill it with equipment, attract 140 members (50 percent students) and offer education events attended by over 1,000 people.

These non-traditional boot camps increasingly feed specific technically skilled workers to regional manufacturers and create tremendous opportunities for growth for students.

CMTA is learning more about how we can help foster more of these partnerships to grow the next generation of California manufacturers.

Here are some other stories about Startup Hustle participants.

0 comments | Post your comment

Sacramento region report paints local “advanced manufacturing” picture

Posted by Gino DiCaro, VP, Communications on March 4, 2016

All manufacturing in California is in fact “advanced” because of the tremendous pressure to be efficient to remain competitive. But many regions are analyzing their “advanced manufacturing” sectors so they can make policies to grow high wage manufacturing jobs and ensure that there is a proper pipeline of workers with the skills that manufacturers need to fill technical positions.

Here in Sacramento, Valley Vision, a regional civic group, released an intriguing report --  Advanced Manufacturing Cluster: Workforce needs assessment -- that will inform a local workforce plan in May of 2016.

According to Valley Vision’s study, conducted with JP Morgan Chase, Los Rios Center of Excellence and the Burris Service Group, the six-county Sacramento Capital region employs more than 42,000 people in the “advanced manufacturing” sector directly and indirectly, contributing more than $12.4 billion in economic output.

The report defines its “advanced manufacturing” cluster this way:

“Advanced manufacturing is a process that integrates the coordinated use of information, automation, software, sensing and networking to improve the efficiency and reduce costs of manufacturing.  Although advanced manufacturing methods may be utilized by any manufacturing industry, high use of these methods tends to cluster in the following six manufacturing subsectors: Aerospace, Chemical, Computers/Electronics, Machinery, Plastic, Transportation.”


The findings show the “advanced manufacturing” cluster had more than 16,000 direct jobs in 2014, representing 42 percent of all manufacturing in the region. With several subsectors, the cluster’s competitive advantage lies within the transportation and machinery subsectors. The region shed nearly 1,800 jobs during the peak of the recession, but started rebounding in 2010. By 2019, the cluster is projected to add as many as 755 new jobs overall, but an examination of total job openings (new and replacement jobs including due to retirements) shows advanced manufacturing is projected to add more than 2,500 jobs across 15 high-demand occupations.

We look forward to seeing more reports like these in all regions in California. They show manufacturing’s tremendous direct and indirect economic benefits for any region, and they highlight the technical skills that drive the industry's success. Most importantly they show us that we need to ensure a proper pipeline of technical workers, and instructors, so manufacturing companies will see California as a safe place to make long-term investments and grow in the Golden State.

0 comments | Post your comment

One of the world's three 'sustainable manufacturing' degree programs is in California's backyard

Posted by Gino DiCaro, VP, Communications on May 9, 2013

Manufacturing got technical over the last few decades. It got harder. It's paying more. It's more innovative. It's "advanced", and In California it has to be tremendously efficient to compete. It must constantly improve and account for the end-of-life of its products.

California State University at Chico has answered the state's call by providing one of only three programs in the world that offers a four-year degree in "Sustainable Manufacturing". This program is in part filling a massive and growing California void of industrially trained students that can go from the production floor to management soon after graduating from college.

The Chico program has a whopping 100 percent job placement success rate and 15 percent of their graduates are women. The average initial pay is $54,000 and sometimes starts as high as $76,000.

No, these students don't often put on a tie and go look important in a cubicle. They have real knowledge and skills. They go on to make the highly innovative products that California has been famous for engineering and producing. They create solutions to real-world problems and tend to the evolution of those solutions within companies with lots of employees. They often end up in high managerial positions for extremely successful manufacturers.

Specifically the "Sustainable Manufacturing" program at Chico is an integrated field of study that combines technical feasibility with environmental responsibility and economic viability. You might think the word "sustainable" is just another packaging of the buzz term "green" but it's not. The degree focuses on making sure the students understand business viability for the manufacturing of a product. That means keeping the business operating, growing and competitive, as well as focusing on successful end-of-life dynamics for a product. The program is both lecture-based as well as hands-on in laboratories with industrial grade machinery.

The leader of the program, Daren Otten said, "with this program we are addressing California manufacturing workforce needs with technically educated Californians who understand the challenges and opportunities associated with doing business in the state."

While Chico is doing great things, the shortage of hands-on education in California is systemic at the University level and even more importantly at the high school level. Less than 30 percent of our high school students ever get to take a hands-on course. Exposure to these skills and real-world learning in the teen years could drive a larger movement of success and interest among our future workers and provide colleges like Chico with students who are willing to dive into the opportunities that manufacturing provides. If more universities offered programs like the one at Chico, our high-wage manufacturers would have access to a larger pool of talent to grow their efficient production facilities in California.

CMTA tips its collective hat to Cal State Chico in developing a program that could be the leading edge of future manufacturing training programs.

0 comments | Post your comment

Finance reform without accountability could devastate career tech

Posted by Jack Stewart, on June 4, 2012

Cross-posted on June 3, 2012 at the Silicon Valley Education Foundation

Under the current K-12 public education system in California, programs that are not required, measured, or explicitly funded by the state will disappear from our schools. Elective courses are becoming victims of educational policy that only recognizes “success” as defined by scores on standardized tests in courses mandated for graduation or college admission. Since that’s all that is really measured, that’s all that will really matter.

The ongoing state budget deficit and the lack of financial incentives to support programs outside of the mandated core academics will undoubtedly force districts to abandon such electives with impunity. This is our concern with  the “Weighted Student Formula” (WSF) proposal. Because the latest version of education finance reform doesn’t alter the current approach to accountability, we fear WSF will accelerate an already alarming narrowing of the curriculum.

In areas like career technical education (CTE), the impact of this well-intended reform could be devastating. Without incentives provided to districts to support these elective programs, there is simply no reason for them to do so. If you doubt that scenario, just examine the impact of the “flexibility” provisions granted to districts for programs like ROPs, Adult Education, and others since 2009 under the state budget. Given the unfettered authority to “flex” the use of these funds for any purpose, districts have obliterated Adult Ed throughout the state, and have put undue pressure on the vast majority of ROPs to survive on a starvation diet. Without  appropriate educational policies that hold districts accountable for truly meeting the needs of all students, this scenario will hold true for programs outside of the “required” or “measured” mandate. That’s not a recipe for success.

From a purely budgetary perspective, distributing CTE dollars without any vocational accountability upon schools makes little sense either. The three CTE-related categoricals most at risk under WSF  leverage every dollar the state invests. The Ag Incentive Grant requires local districts to match each state dollar (requiring districts to provide an extensive, annual report on the use of those precious state dollars). Apprenticeships are largely funded by contractors and unions, thereby stretching each state dollar invested in these “learn while you earn” programs. And Partnership Academies require both a local and industry match for each state dollar, magnifying the state’s investment threefold. Simply sending out these dollars on an per-student basis without any vocational strings 0r leveraged match requirements will cause more harm to education under any calculation.

We hope the governor and the Legislature take the time necessary to develop solutions to protect career technical education programs while also achieving education finance reform. Given the challenges facing these programs at the local level, we know our schools will not continue to support career technical education without the incentives to do so.

0 comments | Post your comment

FIRST Competitions: Discovering and developing a passion for science, engineering, technology and math

Posted by Pamela Kan, CMTA Board Member (President, Bishop-Wisecarver) on May 18, 2010

As printed in Product Design & Development magazine on may 17, 2010.

Pamela Kan, President, Bishop-Wisecarver Corporation

Discovering and developing a passion for science, engineering, technology and math.

I first learned about the FIRST program while traveling with one of my salesmen. We called on several companies where somewhere within the course of the meeting one of the engineers  would reveal their involvement as a mentor in a group called FIRST. I realize now that these mentors during the time of the competition are extremely dedicated and devote many hours to their teams and probably think of little else.

The concept intrigued me for several reasons. First my father Bud Wisecarver has always been a huge supporter of school programs and has been actively involved with local school and community colleges since 1957 in the Bay Area. Second from a business sense it was another way to reach my customer target market of design and mechanical engineers.

So I did some research to find out more about what FIRST was really all about. FIRST is devoted to helping young people discover and develop a passion for science, engineering, technology, and math. Founded nearly 20 years ago by inventor Dean Kamen, the annual programs culminate in an international robotics competition and celebration where teams win recognition, gain self confidence,develop people and life skills, make new friends, and perhaps discover an unforeseen career path. FIRST currently has four levels of competition starting off with Junior FIRST Lego League (grades K-3), FIRST Lego League (Grades 4-8), FIRST Tech Challenge (high School) and FIRST Robotics Competition (High School). I liked the values and goals being expressed and what the group was promoting and decided to get my company involved.

We first became a supplier for the FIRST Robotics Competition in 2007. As a supplier we put together a kit of our DualVee parts (4 wheels, 4 bushings and 2 pieces of track) for each team. Each team has a kit of parts that lives with the team as long as it functions. Parts supplied one year and not used can be used in future years. That is partly what makes the FIRST competitions so is great, is that kids can be a part of the same team for the entire High School experience.  Each school year, teams are formed in the fall.

The FIRST Robotics Competition Kickoff in early January starts the six-week "build" season. The robots are designed and built within the first 6 weeks (from of a common set of parts) by a team of 15 to 25 high-school-aged young people and a handful of engineers-mentors. The students remotely control the robots in competition rounds on the field.Competitions take place in March and April. The FIRST Robotics Competition Regional events are typically held in university arenas. They involve 40 to 70 teams cheered on by thousands of fans over two and a half days. A championship event caps the season. Referees oversee the competition. Judges evaluate teams and present awards for design, technology, sportsmanship and commitment to FIRST.

The Chairman’s Award is FIRST’s highest honor and recognizes a team that exemplifies the values of FIRST. For the past several years they have been held in Atlanta at the Georgia Dome. My company further supports the FRC teams by providing linear guides and actuators at a deeply reduced cost.  All FRC teams have to raise the money required to support teams, build the robots and compete. It is a very intense four month cycle. The FIRST® Robotics Competition (FRC®) stages short games played by autonomous and remote-controlled robots.If you want to see the future leaders of our country in action, then head to the FIRST finals. It is an experience that is hard to actually put into words. To see an arena full of kids cheering each other on and having a great time building something, using their minds to solve problems and learning how to operate within a team is mind blowing. The energy generated by these kids could power a city if it was possible to harness it all.

As a supplier you are able to have a table at the championship event to talk about your products and services with the students. It is really surprising the technical questions these kids can ask. As a woman I love the surprise and excitement that is generated when the girls realize that I am the President of the company. Several have made comments they just never thought that a woman could own or run a manufacturing or engineering business. For me this is extremely rewarding to see these girls all of a sudden realize that they have more options for their careers.

2010 marks the 19th season for FIRST robotics. The game is entitled BREAKAWAY™.  The specifications for the robot they are building is that it can be a maximum weight of 120 lbs. (not including battery and bumper) with a footprint of 28” W x 38” L x 60” H.

All robots are powered by a 12 Volt battery. The robots operate on a playing field that is 27’ W X 54’ L There are 1,809 teams, of which 1,534 are veteran teams (91% retention) and 275  are rookie teams. This equates to a total of 45,225 students (av. 25 per team) and 25,326 mentors/adult supporters (av. 14 per team) plus 6,600 other volunteers.  Forty-eight states, four provinces and twelve countries are participating.

FIRST_competitionThis year my company sponsored two FRC Robotic teams as well as one FIRST Tech Challenge team, we also continued our support as a supplier to the kit of parts. We had a great time interacting with these teams. We decided to record each team’s progress via video. You can watch these at our YouTube channel We chronicled their progress from building the robot to their progress through the San Jose State and UC Davis regional competitions. One of the teams even made it to the finals round at both regional events.

In reviewing one of our videos, I was clearly reminded of the impact that FIRST has on these students. One student states “There’s a lot of stuff I don’t know. But I think it is fun to learn new things. In the future I want to go to school to become an engineer. So I joined FIRST robotics.” I can guarantee you this is probably a student that would have never thought of himself as an engineer prior to his exposure with FIRST. He also now has access to scholarship money because of his participation in the FRC. This year $12.2 million will be available from 136 Scholarship Providers.

So that is really why I am so passionate about supporting FIRST. Our country needs to have kids that are as excited about science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) as they are about their sports heroes or music idols.

Our country is great because of our ability to innovate and manufacture great ideas and products. We have to support programs that get students to see the possibilities that STEM provides. As a country we need to celebrate and honor our great STEM minds more than we do our sports and music idols.

Our kids need to believe that they can be great critical thinkers, that STEM is cool, and that STEM is vitality important to the future of our country. All supporters of FIRST get this, and while several supporters may be my competitors, in this arena it doesn’t matter because we are all rooting for the same team.

Click here to follow PD&D on Twitter Twitter

0 comments | Post your comment
View next 5 entries

Copyright © 2019, California Manufacturers & Technology Association. All rights reserved.