The Manufacturing Skills Institute (MSI), the workforce development affiliate of the Virginia Manufacturers Association, announced today at the Dream It Do It Virginia Symposium that nine community colleges will be designated as authorized MSI Assessment Centers: Virginia Western Community College, Blue Ridge Community College, Community College Workforce Alliance (John Tyler Community College and J. Sargent Reynolds Community College), Mountain Empire Community College, Southside Virginia Community College, Tidewater Community College, Thomas Nelson Community College and Virginia Highlands Community College.

The new MSI Assessment Centers will expand credentialing opportunities for Virginians to demonstrate skills to close the workforce skills gap. The initial focus of the partnership will be to expand the MSI Manufacturing Technician 1 (MT1) certificate program as a baseline credential for Virginia’s 6,000 manufacturers as well as integrating it into degree pathways and dual enrollment opportunities so that the emerging workforce has the 12 critical technical skills that are fundamental to occupations in advanced technology industries.

The system office of Virginia’s Community Colleges (VCCS) has been integral in this development. The VCCS recently provided support to local community colleges wishing to pursue MSI training and Assessment Center status. This investment from the VCCS has enabled Virginia’s community colleges to further enhance students’ pursuit of industry credentials to prepare them for modern manufacturing.

“The MT1 certification can be a launching pad for individuals across Virginia,” said VCCS Chancellor Glenn DuBois. “This holds the potential to be a stackable credential that helps a person on his or her pathway to a specific career within the manufacturing field, like welding, metal working or mechatronics. And it’s one more step away from that ‘bachelor’s or bust’ mindset that can prevent people from promising opportunities in high-demand career areas.”

This announcement is part of an aggressive move to expand the MT1 certificate program into community colleges and educational partners across the United States. The MT1 is part of the NAM-Endorsed Manufacturing Skills Certifications System and is approved by the Virginia Board of Education for high school use. The MT1 has also been approved for use by Workforce Investment Boards for special populations and veterans wishing to improve their manufacturing skills.

“We are excited to work with the MSI to provide opportunities for this certification for our students,” said Virginia Western mechatronics program head Dan Horine. “Having real-world transferable skills is invaluable for them as they seek to build strong careers in the Roanoke Region.”

“We knew in 2007 that manufacturers would have a skills gap of approximately 11,000 people a year. We also knew that the largest need was in the Manufacturing Technician occupation and 96% of manufacturers wanted people with these applied and measurable skills. Although the economic challenges of the last few years slowed demand, it is back and we need to move quickly and this partnership between MSI and Virginia’s community colleges will help close the skills gaps for manufacturers” said Brett Vassey, VMA President & CEO.

The new community college based MSI Assessment Centers will be joining ECPI University, which has six MSI Assessment Centers across the Commonwealth, as well as the Southern Virginia Higher Education Center in offering MT1 resources. MSI’s next MT1 Train-the-Trainer Course for community college instructors begins October 20 in Richmond, Virginia.