A 20-person delegation of Germans and Americans working in education and economic and workforce development visited Pellissippi State Community College and the Tennessee College of Applied Technology Knoxville as part of the American Council on Germany’s initiative, "Transatlantic Cities of Tomorrow: Digitalization and the Future of Work."
The project is a three-year exchange program in which leaders in small- and medium-sized cities in Germany and the U.S. work to develop solutions to common challenges resulting from digitalization – and to identify innovative approaches to turning these challenges into opportunities for their local workforces and economies.
The delegation included educators, workforce development specialists, information technology experts, and representatives from economic development organizations, incubators and city governments from Knoxville, Nashville and Charlotte in the U.S. and Halle, Leipzig and Magdeburg in Germany. The delegation will complete a reciprocal visit to Germany in early November to examine German practices.
In Knoxville, the group learned about the key role that community and technical colleges play in providing students industry training, during its visits to Pellissippi State's MegaLab and to TCAT Knoxville. The group also visited the Fibers and Composites Manufacturing Facility at the University of Tennessee Knoxville and Local Motors. The Knoxville Chamber of Commerce briefed the delegation on the Knoxville-Oak Ridge Innovation Valley, the region’s economic development partnership.
The MegaLab at Pellissippi State’s Strawberry Plains Campus has18,000 square feet of engineering and training space and supports specialized training in automated industrial systems, industrial maintenance, advanced manufacturing, computer science, sustainable technology, welding and more. UT's Fibers and Composites Manufacturing Facility focuses on comprehensive research and development to prototyping of advanced fiber-reinforced plastics and composites.
“At Pellissippi State and TCAT, it was impressive to see how the schools tailor their training based on the needs of business and industry,” said Mandy Stobbe, one of the German participants from the Center for Social Research in Halle. “There is a flexibility and willingness to experiment and adapt that does not exist in Germany.”
TCAT Knoxville President Kelli Chaney said the college and its faculty, staff and students welcomed the opportunity to display its educational and workforce training programs to the delegation. "Our college is very deliberate about engaging in high impact practices that will bring innovation and awareness to our campus," she said.
Pellissippi MegaLab Director Andrew Polnicki and TCAT Knoxville Vice President Patrick Wade worked with the American Council on Germany to develop the Knoxville portion of the program. Both are members of the delegation.
Polnicki said the MegaLab session was focused on Industry 4.0 – the use of automation and data exchange in manufacturing, creating “smart factories” where machines, systems and people communicate with each other to coordinate and monitor progress along assembly lines – and its impact on workforce training and development. The goal was to have an open, roundtable exchange about what educators need to do to meet the needs of industry as they transition to a 4.0 manufacturing environment. It included representatives from Knox County Schools, 4.0 specialists from local industry, and educators from Pellissippi.
“It felt like the hour and a half session passed by in minutes. We could have talked for a couple more hours. In fact, after the delegation left for its next appointment, the core group and I continued discussions for another hour,” Polnicki said. “We have scheduled our next 4.0 group meeting to discuss curriculum and designing the modifications to Lab equipment.”
This project is organized and administered by the American Council on Germany – an independent, nonpartisan nonprofit organization founded in 1952 to strengthen German-American relations – with support from the Transatlantic Program of the Government of the Federal Republic of Germany, through funds of the European Recovery Program of the Federal Ministry of Economics and Energy. This project is also administered under the auspices of the Year of German-American Friendship 2018/19.
More information on the initiative can be found at https://www.acgusa.org/study-tours/transatlantic-cities-of-tomorrow/.
The College System of Tennessee is the state’s largest public higher education system, with 13 community colleges, 27 colleges of applied technology and the online TN eCampus serving approximately 140,000 students. The system is governed by the Tennessee Board of Regents.