We are delighted to have Dr. Scott Lucas, Vice President of Aviation, Manufacturing, and Institutional Effectiveness at the Wichita State University Campus of Applied Sciences and Technology (WSU Tech) in Wichita, Kansas. Scott is a valuable ARM Institute Member, contributing to our Institute’s workforce strategies, including the development of RoboticsCareer.org, as a member of our Education and Workforce Advisory Committee (EWAC).
1. Scott, please tell us a bit about your background and your role at WSU Tech.
I have been Vice President of Aviation, Manufacturing, and Institutional Effectiveness for almost a year but in similar roles for about six. When we have organizational changes in leadership, we always take the time to see if there is the opportunity for restructuring to align with business, community, or student needs. Over those six years, I have had four different titles, but the constant is oversight of Aviation and Manufacturing. I’ve been with the college for almost 18 years in various capacities that have allowed me to get a unique experience from the student’s perspective, college perspective, industry perspective, and now in administration.
Wichita is such a great place because, even though we are an urban center, we still have a strong sense of community, with aviation and manufacturing are at the heart of that, and it really makes coming to work every day so much fun to know that we are making a difference in individual’s lives or companies’ futures.
2. One of the many impressive aspects of WSU Tech is its strong partnership with government and industry. Can you share for our audience how academia, industry, and government work together to prepare students for employment?
WSU Tech’s main campus and home to our Robotics program is the National Center for Aviation Training (NCAT). NCAT is a 200,000 square foot facility that was the “perfect storm”. Industry insight for a local, regional training center to assist with the training and education efforts in the Aviation and Manufacturing sectors led to the city donating land, the county building a $54 million-dollar, taxpayer, funded facility, and the state providing annual grant dollars to equip the labs and classrooms. WSU Tech is the managing partner and leases the facility from the county. With all three entities sharing the common vision and goal of supporting today’s workforce and tomorrow, the community wins by having a focused facility with a common mission shared by all.
This collaboration has been translated to multiple new manufacturing-focused programs driven by industry need, innovative partnerships that focus on student opportunities such as scholarships or retraining initiatives, and a place where all three can work together towards that common purpose.
3. WSU Tech has an important mission relative to workforce development. Can you tell us a bit about your manufacturing certificate and degree programs?
We spend quite a bit of time each year working with local and regional businesses and industry aligning our programs with their current and future needs. We are constantly examining course content, sequencing, scheduling, and applied learning options to give the employer the best potential employee and to match the student to their goals, whether that be quick employment, sustainable skills, retraining, or transfer to a more advanced educational institution. We also align our programs with state programming and Kansas high school pathways to build that network for students and educators to continue pursuing career and technical training specific to manufacturing. In Robotics specifically, we just expanded from a single high school partner to six this year in the middle of and next year, we anticipate another six to eight more high school partners.
The final piece is connecting our manufacturing certificates and degrees to third-party content and credentials. This not only validates our learning and assesses our students, but it provides students industry-recognized skills that set them apart when interviewing and seeking employment. WSU Tech purposefully seeks out third-party credentials that will provide that type of impact for our students. That’s why we deliver over 3,000 NC3 credentials and 600 NIMS credentials each year. We are constantly searching for the best matches for our students.
4. WSU Tech is one of the first educational organizations to receive the ARM Endorsement. Can you share your perspective on the process and value of this Endorsement?
The ARM Institute endorsement process provided us with the opportunity to benchmark our programs with others across the country. It was exciting to be one of the first institutions to experience the endorsement process, and it provided an opportunity to assess our programs through another lens. As the only Robotics program in Kansas and one of only a handful of two-year AAS programs in the central US region, we do not have very many opportunities to compare ourselves. We do consider our program a national-level program; even though we are serving our local workforce, many of our employers have national and even global outreach. As a member of EWAC, I get to hear and see some of the great programs throughout the country.
Our goal is to be the best one of the best programs in the country and going through the ARM Institute Endorsement process validated the path we were traveling, and the future we are pursuing. The process took some work, but overall, it was worth the effort. Highlighting areas to strengthen and improve, the ARM Institute Endorsement process also helped us reinforce ongoing quality improvement and add those processes into daily operations.
5. You have been a valuable contributor and active ARM Institute Member, participating in our Education and Workforce Advisory Council (EWAC), for which we are very grateful. What value do you and WSU Tech receive from your ARM membership?
WSU Tech and Wichita State University have had a great partnership being members of the ARM Institute. Even though we are in the middle of Kansas, the ARM Institute has provided us with the opportunity to network throughout the US. Those connections have led to various ideas and projects that wouldn’t have been considered five years ago. We have networked with members in Indiana, Arizona, and Ohio. We also worked with AmTech and Tampa Bay Works in Florida to apply for a US Department of Labor grant. Although we did not get it, the vision, concept, and partnership would not have been possible without the connection through the ARM Institute.
Participating in the Institute has allowed us to expand our opportunities in understanding the manufacturing landscape. For example, we received funds from an ARM project to gather data from over 60 local, small, and medium manufacturers and employers. We have also strengthened our relationships with organizational members such as NC3, SME, and NCATE, and OEM-training providers like APT and Festo. Whether it is building a nationwide network, partnering with third-party organizations, or conducting research locally, the value the ARM Institute offers our community is unmeasurable.
ABOUT THE ARM INSTITUTE
The ARM (Advanced Robotics for Manufacturing) Institute is a Manufacturing USA® Institute sponsored by the Office of the Secretary of Defense under Agreement Number W911NF-17-3-0004. The ARM Institute leverages a unique, robust and diverse ecosystem of consortium members and partners across industry, academia and government to make robotics, autonomy and artificial intelligence more accessible to U.S. manufacturers large and small, train and empower the manufacturing workforce, strengthen our economy and global competitiveness, and elevate national security and resilience. Based in Pittsburgh, PA since 2017, the ARM Institute is leading the way to a future where people & robots work together to respond to our nation’s greatest challenges and to produce the world’s most desired products. For more information, visit www.arminstitute.org and follow the ARM Institute on LinkedIn and Twitter.