DoD Expands Machine Tool Workforce Training Network into Florida

March 13, 2023 | By Robert Ruzzier, Office of Industrial Base Policy

The Department of Defense (DoD)’s Manufacturing Capability Expansion and Investment Prioritization (MCEIP) office, in partnership with the Department of Energy’s Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) and the Institute for Advanced Composites Manufacturing Innovation (IACMI), announced the expansion of the ACENet workforce development training network to three locations in Florida. ACENet is a rapidly growing national network of regional machine tool innovation centers and workforce development hubs focused on restoring American dominance in machine tool technology and innovation.

The Herbert Wertheim College of Engineering at the University of Florida (UF) in Gainesville, Polk State College in Winter Haven, and Indian River State College in Fort Pierce now join other ACENet hubs successfully operating in North Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, and West Virginia. Each of these centers plays a key role in reestablishing American leadership in the machine tool industry through transformative thinking, technology innovation, and workforce development.

“Machine tools and machine tool advanced workforce development training are critical to America’s continued economic vitality and national security,” said Ms. Adele Ratcliff, Director of MCEIP’s Innovation Capability and Modernization (ICAM) Office. “I look forward to following the progress of these “hub-and-spoke” centers across Florida and applaud each for supporting the training necessary to bring machine tool leadership back to the U.S.”

Developed in 2020 by University of Tennessee, Knoxville, Professor Dr. Tony Schmitz, ACENet is a public-private partnership established between ICAM and ORNL. Managed by IACMI, and funded by ICAM’s Industrial Base Analysis and Sustainment Program, ACENet is expanding the rapid delivery of ACE-developed training to both experienced and student machinists at universities, community colleges, high schools, technical schools, and throughout industry. ACENet’s growth into Florida lays the foundation to build on the work done in 2022 when the ACENet team created and delivered free online courses in machining dynamics and applied metrology to more than 3,600 students from all 50 states.

According to UF Mechanical Engineering Professor Sean Niemi, ACE is part of a strategic economic shift for the state of Florida. “COVID showed that the state was overly dependent on tourism, and now the state is focused on growing manufacturing and expanding the aerospace and defense industries. As someone who teaches mechanical design courses and enjoys manufacturing, I’m excited to see all the elements I’m passionate about coalesce in the ACE program.”

“Machining and machine tools are at the foundation of America’s manufacturing capability and its global competitiveness,” declared IACMI Workforce Director Joannie Harmon. “We have a critical workforce skills gap in this country when it comes to machine tool resources. The workforce development training network component of ACE is intended to help our nation recover, advance, and sustain technical and manufacturing positions – all to enable a strong, resilient, and responsive U.S. industrial base.”

For more information on the ICAM Office, ACE, and/or ACENet, please email:

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