On April 26, AMP SoCal partners met at the USC University Club to participate in an interactive discussion about the accomplishments of the collaborative and the various ways the partnership can effectively make a positive impact on the region’s aerospace and defense (A&D) industrial ecosystem. Partners who were unable to physically join the meeting were invited to attend online via webinar. The partners within the collaboration form the foundation that allows AMP SoCal to extend its reach in addressing key issues in the region. The meeting was facilitated by the Price School – USC Center for Economic Development.
The Value of Aerospace in California
To lay the groundwork for the day’s discussions, the morning began with an A&D industry overview for the nation and specifically Southern California. California continues to be a global leader in aerospace. The state produces 9% of all sales in aerospace products. In 2015, Southern California firms generated about 74% of that state revenue, which means the AMP SoCal region is producing almost 7% of the world’s aerospace products in terms of revenue.
A Look at the Past and Future of AMP SoCal
A comprehensive history of AMP SoCal and its related initiatives was presented by Dion Jackson, program director, USC Center for Economic Development and AMP SoCal lead, including the initial goals when the program began. She discussed the first meeting with key partners when determining what AMP SoCal would look like for the future.
“We put forth 10 strategies [in the grant application] where we saw gaps in the ecosystem that we could address,” said Jackson. “I told everybody around the table, ‘We might not get the designation, but this industry needs us and we need to commit to doing this whether we get the designation or not.’ That level of commitment is what I was asking for and it’s what people stepped up to and have continued since then.
We had 86 partners when we put our application in. 86 people or organizations wrote letters of support saying, ‘This is something important, and this is an industry that makes a difference in southern California, and we wanna build on that.’ We had only four counties at that time, Ventura, Los Angeles, Orange, and San Diego. By 2018, we have 156 partners and 10 counties.”
The attendees completed an internal evaluation questionnaire regarding the program and its different initiatives since its inception. Each table was asked to discuss and then share what they found to be most valuable about AMP SoCal. The answers regarding the program’s biggest asset included the collaboration of its members, how it helps make it easier for different sectors, such as academia and aerospace, to communicate with each other, and that it brings needed exposure to the vastness of the aerospace industry in the region. More than one table highlighted workforce challenges and appreciated AMP SoCal making manufacturing education, training and apprenticeships a priority.
To tap into the various areas of expertise of the partners, the attendees were then asked to confer with their respective tablemates and tackle the question, “What is the next workforce challenge in the region that needs to be addressed?” The brainstorming led to identifying the following challenges:
- Pipeline of workers is too small
- Need to increase STEM education at the junior high school level
- Lack of trainers for community college and high school manufacturing programs
- Stigma attached to factory work
- Manufacturers have difficulty training employees due to time, resources, ability
- Employers are not prioritizing investing in developing workforce
- Lack of access to technology for potential workers
The tables were then asked to propose solutions for the challenges that were listed. The discussions and reports will be used as a guide moving into AMP SoCal’s fourth year of service to the A&D industry and the community at large.
USC Center for Advanced Manufacturing Tour
Following the meeting, attendees were given the opportunity to tour the USC Viterbi School of Engineering Center for Advanced Manufacturing (CAM) to experience the new technology being used in advanced manufacturing and hear from students currently enrolled in the engineering programs offered at USC. The center is fairly new, having opened in 2017. It focuses on four main areas of advanced manufacturing, digital manufacturing, additive manufacturing, robotics and automation, and smart manufacturing. The goals of the center are to:
- Grow manufacturing research at USC by launching new initiatives
- Enrich educational experience of students and help in attracting high quality students to USC
- Provide access to the latest manufacturing technology to the USC community
- Support manufacturing industry in the Southern California region