Not since Rosie has industry been so riveting.

While industry and manufacturing once dominated the U.S. economy, the rise of the computer and service-orientated professions and the notion of factories as dark, dirty and dangerous places has steadily eaten away at the available labor force necessary to keep an industrialized country manufacturing. Even though factories have come a long way in the past half-century, most of the American labor force has continued to either seek jobs in what they perceive to be either a safer or more profitable service industry, or languish as an unskilled laborer.

Enter the Impact Academy, "a collaboration of local colleges, high schools and industries and manufacturing concerns," according to Dexter Hulse, an assistant professor and program coordinator at University of Cincinnati's Clermont campus. "People from these organizations meet and discuss the needs for companies involved in manufacturing, such as personnel," he explains.

The Clermont County Chamber of Commerce, the Clermont County Office of Economic Development, University of Cincinnati Clermont and several area career and technical schools joined forces to form the Impact Academy, which is entering its fifth year. The academy serves to boost students into the role of skilled workers by providing an integrated curriculum with updated equipment that takes some of the mystification out of manufacturing.

"The whole purpose is to give people more skills for industry," Hulse says. "We have a curriculum and a half-million dollars in grants to buy equipment to help each of these schools. Their curriculum integrates with ours. It's an all-encompassing curriculum that provides the students with the skill sets they need."

For instance, partner school U.S. Grant Career Center in Bethel benefited from a CNC lathe and CNC mill, purchased from Cincinnati Machine, that helps students become skilled quicker. UC Clermont owns identical machines, so students can move from a high school program into a college level, and continue to learn and build their skills without pausing. "They can see how these machines are used in industry," Hulse notes. "When they come to our college, we have the same equipment, so we can do projects that are built on the skills they brought in. Then, when they go into industry, they have exposure and they're not afraid of the machine, they're comfortable with the language and terminology and processes of the machines."

By integrating these skills with programs such as computer-aided design (CAD) and rapid prototyping, students graduate with academic knowledge, experience and skill. Andy Franckhauser, has worked for Berding 3D Scanning in Milford since his graduation from the Impact Academy two years ago. Berding specializes in scanning and modeling with 3D laser scanners, allowing them to perform testing, reverse engineering, inspection, analysis and even historical preservation services for various industries.

"From gaining the knowledge and experience from around those machines and then going into where I'm at now, I don't go so much into the manufacturing end, but I deal with designers, mechanical engineers and architects," Franckhauser explains. "Doing what I do, we deal with the whole gambit of engineers. Had I not gained the experience and knowledge that I gained in the Impact Academy, I wouldn't be able to do what I do. I can talk to these people fluently and understand what they are trying to get at. It makes my job a lot easier."

As the Impact Academy continues to grow, mandatory co-ops have been integrated into the CAD and CIM portions. Currently, corporations such as Cincinnati Machine and Ford are full-time participants in the Impact Academy, with numerous other businesses jumping in as the need arises. Hulse says there is always room for any manufacturer who needs workers with expertise.

"This has really made a difference in what students can experience," he observes. "To have the skill sets needed to get a good job, our placement figures went from averaging $24,000 to $28,000 a few years ago to $32,000 to $38,000 with a two-year degree. The skill-sets industry has realized they have these, and they come to us, and we have a 100 percent placement for anyone who wants to go to work. That's a big change from four years ago."
"”Rodney Beckwith