Update on Center of Excellence for Advanced Manufacturing

Access to world class training for manufacturing employees will soon be available through SVAM’s own Center of Excellence training facility. Last year, at about this time, the SVAM Board of Directors embarked on a journey that, at the time, seemed only a dream. Believing that manufacturers knew best what their employment and training needs were, they also believed that SVAM was the best vehicle to design and implement the Southwest Virginia Center of Excellence to be funded by the Virginia Tobacco Commission.

After months of hard work and dedication, their dream came true when the Commission approved the SVAM proposal and provided the first year’s funding at the $2 million level. This initial three-year project will establish a main campus at the Virginia Highlands Small Business Incubator in Abingdon, a welding and Fab Lab satellite in Duffield, a welding and mechatronics satellite in Bluefield, an advanced precision machining satellite in Wytheville, and an AWS accredited testing facility. In addition, there will be 7 distance learning sites scattered across southwest Virginia – making this a truly regional approach to advanced manufacturing training. The project will establish three curricula – welding, machining and industrial machinery mechanics – providing state-of-the-art equipment and training and third-party credentialing through AWS, NIMS and Siemens.

An additional task for the Center is to change the image of manufacturing in the Region – making careers with local manufacturers an appealing path to economic success. An extensive marketing plan will be implemented to educate parents, guidance counselors, career coaches, students, and the general public about the exciting and affordable training pathways to these careers.

The ultimate goal of the Center is to provide an available workforce – well-trained in advanced manufacturing – for existing industry in the Region and, at the same time, to make southwest Virginia a number one destination for location of new industries.

Progress to get the Center established is in full swing. The most recent news is the hiring of the the Center of Excellence Director–Stephanie Surrett. See the separate press release for more information about Stephanie.

On other fronts, the space for the main campus has been secured at the Virginia Highlands Small Business Incubator in Abingdon – with satellites to follow in Duffield, Bluefield and Wytheville. The Center of Excellence Board of Directors has been appointed and held its first meeting on January 22. The Partnership Council and the Academic Council members are in place and will be holding their first meetings in the near future; the Industry Council is in the development stage.

Updates about the Center of Excellence can be found in SVAM’s quarterly newsletter, Manufacturing Matters.