ACE Expands Machine Tools Workforce Training Centers into Minnesota

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ACE Expands Machine Tools Workforce Training Centers into Minnesota

Emerging national network of machine tool workforce development centers supported by Department of Defense aims to revitalize American manufacturing

KNOXVILLE, TN (September 14, 2023) – The Institute for Advanced Composites Manufacturing InnovationÒ (IACMI), in partnership with Department of Defense (DoD)’s Manufacturing Capability Expansion and Investment Prioritization (MCEIP) office, announced today it is expanding America’s Cutting Edge (ACE) into Minnesota.

A national initiative aimed at revitalizing U.S. manufacturing, ACE is adding two new innovation and workforce development centers in Minnesota: St. Cloud State University (SCSU) and the University of St. Thomas. Focused on different rural and urban populations, both schools together are taking a strategic approach to provide essential training in manufacturing across the entire state. ACE, which has regional machine tool training centers in Florida, Kentucky, New Jersey, North Carolina, Ohio, Tennessee, Texas, West Virginia and now Minnesota, provides free online and in-person training in the machine tool industry–training that’s key to America’s national security and continued economic vitality.

“We are excited about the impact this program will make in the Twin Cities community,” said John Wentz, Director of Advanced Manufacturing at St. Thomas. “ACE compliments St. Thomas’ history of hands-on engineering education and expands our ability to introduce CNC machining to new populations, such as high school students interested in engineering and technology fields.” In addition to offering ACE to their engineering students, St. Thomas is targeting specific audiences like incumbent workers and veterans. Wentz added, “St. Thomas has prided itself on working closely with Minnesota industry through senior design and research projects, and we’re excited to support their workforce needs through this program.”

St. Cloud State University is taking a different approach with a 53-foot semi-trailer as a mobile training center, ideal for reaching rural communities throughout Minnesota. They’re starting with training teachers in their Technology Engineering and Careers (TEC) Network this fall and will then drive the unit equipped with portable Haas Mills to all qualifying schools and companies by spring 2024. Just like other TEC Network equipment, SCSU staff will train instructors in advance and deliver the machines and materials to their locations, all at no cost. CEU and college credits will be available to successful graduates of the program.

“We are building on our strengths here at SCSU as ACE will expand the training opportunities of our TEC Network. The addition of making this program available through SCSU’s mobile platform allows us to take this much-needed training opportunity on the road as we reach teachers and students across Minnesota,” said Dr. Kurt Helgeson, an SCSU professor in the Department of Environmental and Technological Studies and ACE Program Director. “The ACE initiative aligns with SCSU’s focus on providing innovative learning experiences to serve a need and meet the demands of our workforce.”

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 have been added. Upon completion, students become qualified to advance to hands-on lab training. Whether in an engineering department or a mobile shop, “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 MCEIP’s Industrial Base Analysis and Sustainment program, the Department of Energy’s Manufacturing Demonstration Center at Oak Ridge National Laboratory, and IACMI. 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 5,500 people from all 50 states are engaged in online training and nearly 700 have completed in-person training.

“Machining and machine tools are at the foundation of America’s manufacturing capability and its global competitiveness,” said IACMI Workforce VP 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 140-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 Materials & Manufacturing Technologies Office, as well as key state and industry partners.

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