The Department of Defense’s Office of Industrial Policy (IndPol), through its Industrial Base Analysis and Sustainment (IBAS) Program, awarded Auburn University $1.85 million to begin the second year of the Systems Engineering Technology (SET) Program Development and Application project. Funded under the IBAS program’s National Imperative for Industrial Skills (“Skills Imperative”) initiative, SET seeks to reduce the time it takes the U.S. to develop critical technologies by rapidly training technicians to support model-based systems engineering. The SET program, which results in a two-year associate degree in Systems Engineering Technology, is currently being developed through a pathfinder curriculum offered through Calhoun Community College near Huntsville, Alabama.
SET creates a new skillset of capable systems engineering technicians that will enable and accelerate the incorporation of digital engineering and model-based systems engineering into the workplace. The first cohort of 31 students at Calhoun Community College will serve as a prototype effort while the SET program actively establishes its curricula at other community colleges across Alabama. SET curriculum has been developed to align with employers’ needs for workers skilled in emerging systems engineering technologies without requiring a four-year degree. More than 20 local employers have expressed interest in hiring students from the SET program.
In addition to the two-year degree, the SET Program features expansion upstream into high schools with six high school students already engaged through dual enrollment, and downstream into traditional four-year degrees. The work being done in the SET program is enabling Auburn University to integrate coursework intended for engineering students with electives, laboratory assignments, and certificate programs into its systems engineering program.
“Industry’s demand for systems engineering technicians and systems engineers far outpaces the ability of our academic systems to produce supply. We are utilizing this opportunity to increase the quantity and robustness of the systems engineering offerings and increase the quantity and quality of engineers entering the workforce with the capabilities needed to support DoD, NASA, and DOE systems development,” said Dr. Greg Purdy, Assistant Professor of Industrial & Systems Engineering at Auburn University.
The courses teach future technicians computer programming, systems modeling techniques, database management and visualization, as well as other key skills necessary to bring American manufacturing forward into advanced digitalization. “Digital manufacturing is increasingly important for new technologies and products, but due to skills gaps and required training programs, the U.S. risks not having the talent to fill new digital manufacturing jobs. Auburn and its SET program are preparing the future workforce in American manufacturing to continue into the 21st century with new emerging capabilities and impressive new skills,” said Mr. Jesse Salazar, Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Industrial Policy.
IBAS Director, Ms. Adele Ratcliff, commended the project by saying, “Manufacturing in this country is not the dirty, physically demanding environment it used to be. Initiatives such as SET are bringing prestige back to the critical trades and making careers in industry more attractive to not only those entering the workforce, but many looking for new ways to be a part of America’s industrial revitalization.”
The SET program continues to explore opportunities to expand its systems engineering technician curriculum to other schools across Alabama, Mississippi, and Tennessee. Project leaders are in conversations with stakeholders in Texas, Florida, South Carolina, and Georgia for potential expansion.
“It is a great privilege for Auburn University, Victory Solutions, and the Institute for Digital Enterprise Advancement (IDEA) to be teaming with the DoD to bring this program to our students. We are confident that as the program matures throughout Alabama, our outreach efforts with the other states will pay big dividends towards filling the talent pipeline with a new cadre of professionals that possess more hands-on experience with systems modeling expertise. Our move towards getting SET accepted as a Department of Labor registered apprenticeship program indicates its potential for impact,” said IDEA Executive Director and SET Program Manager, Mr. Chris Crumbly.
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