Spark a revolution in manufacturing

Students, educators and the workforce in more than 170 countries benefit from a digital apprenticeship in computer numerical control (CNC) manufacturing technology. Backed by industry partners, and used in more than 2,500 educational institutions, the TITANS of CNC: Academy leads to certification and high-paying careers.

The TITANS of CNC: Academy is changing the way manufacturing is taught. And it’s offered free of charge.

Titan Gilroy, a professional boxing champion who was formerly incarcerated, is the chief executive officer at TITANS of CNC, an advanced manufacturing facility in Flower Mound, Texas. He shared his story of perseverance and overcoming obstacles on a national television show of the same name. And during its third season, Gilroy took cameras inside San Quentin State Prison and built an elite CNC academy. It was through this experience that he developed the digital TITANS of CNC: Academy.

Work-based learning beyond barriers

A team of subject matter experts was gathered to develop an innovative, learner-centric platform to serve as the Academy’s home. At the same time — with knowledge, problem solving and communication at the core — a group of engineers, designers, modelers, machine operators, and finishing and fulfillment team members came together to develop content and curriculum.

To support the learning is a community that offers support around the clock. Help is available on social media, where community members share successes and challenges, gain creative inspiration, and discuss the power of digital internship and the Academy. This work creates opportunities where they didn’t exist before. Because socioeconomic and geographic barriers can limit the efforts of even the most enthusiastic students. But providing experiences that students can complete on their own schedule allows busy working professionals to grow in the trade or learn new skills.

Then, in Academy Small Groups that meet at various sites around the world, students connect what they’ve learned to the real world while gaining hands-on experience. They model and program code using the same programs, tools and machines as professionals. So, as students progress through a series of videos or develop sophisticated aerospace parts, they can postprocess the code they created.

“This feeds my soul. Allowing others to experience the magic of bringing their creations to life…,” said Bobby Brewster. “Giving people pathways to careers, that’s what the Academy does.”

Bobby Brewster is a Small Group facilitator in South Florida. He and his family operate WMR Competition Performance, a state-of-the-art motorcycle racing shop and motorsports dealership. There, Brewster designs motorcycle parts with an aerospace mentality, holding strict tolerances and setting high standards. And on Saturdays, you will find him and his golden retriever in the shop — ready to teach. Small Group hosting is one way his family gives back to the community; they donate everything to this cause.

How to implement a digital apprenticeship

Digital apprenticeships can offer significant benefits. Spaces wherein curriculum is readily available, anytime, anywhere, grant flexibility and freedom for students to learn on their terms. They allow students to acquire knowledge in accordance with their learning preference when time allows.

Employ social media to develop a global community.

Listening to the diverse perspectives of learners, educators and experts from around the world promotes education and ultimately job growth. Participation in a digital apprenticeship program should be collaborative, where students reach out to others to share and grow. Further, social media allows for outreach and advocacy. Get the word out. Tell the world what you have to offer and start a movement!

Extend the learning in small groups, where students meet to apply new knowledge in a real-world context.

Small group work allows students to build new skills — using the same tools, equipment and software as experienced professionals. This helps connect the cognitive to the kinesthetic learning. An added benefit is networking beyond social media and online communities.

Develop a path to certification and employment.

First determine what skills and certifications your students need. How can your students attain them with more flexibility? Any high-quality certification process will offer students the opportunity to validate a unique set of skills with identified parameters and with clear expectations of what success looks like. Then assess students evidence based on industry standards and expectations set by industry subject matter experts.

Matthew Bornak, M.Ed., is a former CTE teacher, TITANS of CNC: Academy student, and an aerospace specialist at the Boeing Company.

Read more in Techniques: The infrastructure issue.