ACE Expands Machine Tools Workforce Training Centers into Florida

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ACE Expands Machine Tools Workforce Training Centers into Florida

Emerging national network of machine tool workforce development centers aims to revitalize American manufacturing.

The Institute for Advanced Composites Manufacturing InnovationÒ (IACMI) announced today it is expanding America’s Cutting Edge (ACE), a national initiative aimed at revitalizing U.S. manufacturing, to three locations in Florida. Those schools include 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.

ACE, which now has regional machine tool training centers in Florida, North Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, and West Virginia, provides free online and in-person training in the machine tool industry–training that’s essential to America’s national security and continued economic vitality.

According to UF Mechanical Engineering Professor Sean Niemi, ACE is part of a strategic economic direction for the state of Florida. “COVID showed that the state was overly dependent on tourism,” Niemi said. “So 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.”

ACE is comprised of two parts. The first is an online requirement that covers an introduction to Computer Numerical Control (CNC) machining and 3D modeling using Fusion 360. Additional courses in metrology, composites, and cybersecurity are being added. Upon completion, students become qualified to advance to a week-long, hands-on lab training “bootcamp.” Bootcamps provide opportunities for eligible students to learn in a high-intensity environment through hands-on, in-person training—all at no cost.

Launched in 2020, ACE is a public-private partnership established between the Department of Defense’s Industrial Base Analysis and Sustainment (IBAS) program and the Department of Energy’s Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL). Managed by IACMI, ACE aims to close the skills gap and restore American dominance in machine tool technology and innovation. Through ACE, a national CNC machining training program was developed by University of Tennessee, Knoxville, (UT) Professor Tony Schmitz. More than 3,400 people from all 50 states are engaged in online training and more than 225 have completed in-person bootcamps.

Dr. Schmitz is thrilled with the growth of ACE and as a UF graduate, he’s excited to see it expand to Florida. He commented, “The ACE CNC machining and metrology modules exist, in large part, because I completed my graduate studies at the UF Machine Tool Research Center. It’s so nice to see this connection, truly full circle! They are now part of an evangelizing community, and we want nothing less than eliminating the shortfall in the manufacturing workforce that exists today.”

The University of Florida will serve as an ACE hub, working with spokes across the state to expand machine tool training centers in Florida. One of those spokes, Polk State College, has already embedded ACE into its CNC Operator curriculum and has provided nine participants hands-on training. Polk State College in partnership with ACE provides the resources and opportunities for students to create innovative and technologically advanced CNC projects on equipment that mirrors the needs of our local employers,” said Jamie Rowan, Manager of Polk State’s Corporate College. “Industry is already coming to us to machine parts previously impossible without a 5-axis CNC machine.”  

Bill Solomon, Dean of the Indian River State College School of Workforce Education, added, “IRSC is the workforce training engine for Florida’s Treasure Coast, and our partnership with IACMI expands our ability to engage students earlier and open their minds to the rewarding, well-paying, and creative careers in the machine tool industry. We anticipate that as middle and high school students go hands-on in ACE bootcamps and discover their new talents and abilities, they will help IRSC and our economic development partners create a new narrative around careers in the skilled trades.”

“Machining and machine tools are at the foundation of America’s manufacturing capability and its global competitiveness,” concluded IACMI Workforce Director Joannie Harmon. “We have a critical workforce skills gap in this country when it comes to machine tool resources. The training 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.”


IACMI – The Composites Institute is a 130-plus member community of industry, universities, national laboratories, and federal, state, and local government agencies working together to accelerate advanced composites design, manufacturing, technical innovation, and workforce solutions to enable a cleaner and more sustainable, more secure, and more competitive U.S. economy. IACMI is managed by the Collaborative Composite Solutions Corporation (CCS), a not-for-profit organization established by The University of Tennessee Research Foundation. A Manufacturing USA institute, IACMI is supported by the U.S. Department of Energy’s Advanced Manufacturing Office, as well as key state and industry partners.

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