Caroline County Economic Development

Caroline County Launches New Manufacturing Curriculum

The Caroline County Board of Education and Caroline County Commissioners have announced the launch of a new manufacturing curriculum for high school students. The Advanced Manufacturing Professionals (AMP) curriculum was developed to prepare Caroline County students for careers with local and regional manufacturers. The Maryland State Department of Education has approved the new curriculum, which will begin enrolling students for the 2017 – 2018 school year.

The AMP curriculum was developed in response to Caroline County Economic Development’s five-year strategic plan, which identified workforce development for the manufacturing sector as a top priority. The Board of Education, economic development, and local manufacturers began working together to develop AMP nearly three years ago.

“We are very excited about the opportunities AMP will provide our students,” said Dr. Patricia Saelens, Interim Superintendent of Caroline County Public Schools. “The new curriculum is very robust. It will prepare students for modern manufacturing, which requires creativity, problem solving, and teamwork.”

The manufacturing sector employs more than 1,200 people in Caroline County, representing 12.2% of all jobs in the County, according to the Maryland Department of Labor, Licensing & Regulation. There are more than 6,500 people employed in manufacturing in the broader Mid-Shore region. The Board of Education received fifteen letters of support for the AMP curriculum from manufacturers located in all five Mid-Shore counties. These companies expressed concern that it has become increasingly difficult to find skilled technical workers. They expect this trend to continue as their most experienced workers are aging and retiring out of the workforce.

The local shortage of skilled manufacturing labor reflects broader national trends. According to the National Association of Manufacturers, the industry expects to add a total of 3.5 million manufacturing jobs over the next ten years. In a recent survey, 80% of manufacturers reported that they are already facing a moderate or serious shortage of qualified applicants for skilled or highly-skilled positions. This is despite the fact that the average manufacturing worker’s wages are $26.00 per hour, excluding benefits. This is higher than the average wages for workers in other sectors.

“The AMP program will begin developing the next generation of manufacturing talent, which is absolutely vital to Caroline County,” said Dan Franklin, president of the Caroline County Commissioners. “We’ve seen significant growth with new manufacturers moving to the County, and our existing companies growing and expanding. We are very fortunate to have a Board of Education that is so eager to work with our businesses. There’s a true partnership between the schools and our economic development office.”

The AMP curriculum will give students the opportunity to work on equipment like 3D printers, CNC machines, and state-of-the-art welding kits. Students will work on real-world projects provided by local manufacturers. Local manufacturers have also volunteered to help co-teach lessons, provide feedback to students on completed projects, and provide internship opportunities.

Josh Zimmerman, Business Liaison for Caroline County Public Schools, said the manufacturing community has helped make AMP a reality. “We have incredible business leaders who have already invested a tremendous amount of their time to support this curriculum. Tanglewood Conservatories has been part of this effort from the beginning, and has gone above and beyond what we could have ever asked. Other manufacturers like Dart Container and Crystal Steel have also been very generous with their support.”

Students enrolled in the AMP curriculum will begin taking classes in their sophomore year and will move through the program as a cohort. They will begin by learning the principles of safety, quality, measurements, and lean manufacturing. They will apply those concepts as they move through the curriculum, working on projects related to product design and development, process automation, and production management.

Gene Smith, Principal of the Caroline Career & Technology Center where AMP will be taught, says the curriculum will have a heavy emphasis on soft skills. “Businesses have told us that they’re looking for people who are good at problem solving and working in teams. We’ll be providing students with projects that challenge them. They’ll have to work together to figure out solutions, just like in a real manufacturing environment,” said Smith.

Students who complete the AMP curriculum will be prepared to go to work immediately, or to pursue further education. The Board of Education has secured articulation agreements with Chesapeake College and Delaware Technical Community College.

Smith said students and parents interested in AMP should contact their guidance counselors. Businesses interested in getting involved with AMP may contact Josh Zimmerman, Business Liaison for Caroline County Public Schools at 410-479-1460; or Rachel Barry, Economic Development Coordinator at 410-479-4188.

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