Artificial intelligence, augmented reality could be in Clark’s future

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Clark is developing an Advanced Manufacturing program and new campus to house it

Technology is changing many sectors of the job market, and manufacturing is no exception. Those changes are bringing about the need for new skills, training and education for current and future employees. Providing high-quality education is the goal of Clark College’s new academic program currently under development: Advanced Manufacturing. That was the message at a recent event, held August 20, at the home of philanthropic partners Jim and Becky Parish.

Currently, Clark offers programs in Machining, Welding and Mechatronics. By co-locating these at Clark College at Boschma Farms, the college’s up-and-coming campus in Ridgefield, Clark will establish a hub of advanced manufacturing training and educational options for those entering the field. It will also be a resource for local employees to get additional training to stay current at their jobs.

“As these three programs move to Ridgefield, it will be the first time they are co-located,” said Dean of Workforce and Professional Technical Education Genevieve Howard.

“It will create interaction between students of all three programs…helping them integrate the learning and experience from Welding into Mechatronics, for example,” she added.

Planning for the new Advanced Manufacturing program includes keeping an eye open to the needs of industry and Clark students.

“Material sciences (having a better understanding of contents and their actions), artificial intelligence, augmented reality—we want to be able to bring on whatever is needed in the next two to three years, to equip students to be ready for family-wage jobs,” said Howard.

Manufacturing is currently in a resurgence as a career choice, having been redefined by the digitization of manufacturing processes. Many major manufacturers in the region, however, are left hiring employees from outside the Pacific Northwest.

“Clark is not just looking at one program, but looking at many that transcend industry and skill sets,” said Brian Taylor, head of northwestern states for Siemens Industry Digital Factory Division.

“Clark is looking at retraining, skills training, associate and bachelor programs—all of which raise the community here and create this as a center for Clark County, the region and even the country, to make an impact on the manufacturing industry,” said Taylor.

The idea is echoed by Kevin Witte, vice president of Economic & Community Development at Clark.

“The number one thing companies are looking for in relocation is: What is the talent pool in the area? As the pace of change increases, the only way to be successful is for industry and education to partner. And from our research, there is no other two-year college in the nation that is working on this,” said Witte.

The new home for Clark’s Advanced Manufacturing program is located east of I-5 off the Ridgefield/Pioneer Street exit. Clark College at Boschma Farms’ first building is currently in the design stage. The 70 acres of land for the campus, resulting from a combination of philanthropic and investment efforts between Clark College Foundation, Hank and Bernice Boschma and Ridgefield East 1 Associates LLC, was secured in May 2014.

The Boschma connection to Clark started long before the new campus partnership. Hank and Bernice were dairy farmers from Holland who settled in Washington and began their United States citizenship courses at Clark; later, their daughter also attended Clark.

Learn more about Clark’s Advanced Manufacturing and Mechanical programs, and about Clark College at Boschma Farms.


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