NWTC prepares students for 'Industry 4.0'

GREEN BAY, Wis. (WBAY) -- Could virtual reality tours and 3D printing be the future of education in an ever-changing workforce?

Northwestern Technical College held an international conference Monday to discuss best practices when it comes to the next industrial revolution known as Industry 4.0.

Educators from across the U.S. and Europe spent the day touring NWTC’s facilities and talking about how education needs to change in order to meet student’s needs moving into Industry 4.0.

“So it's really using the knowledge that we've created and are collecting and using that in a better way to inform the decisions we’re making in manufacturing and construction and engineering,” said Amy Kox, Trades and Engineering Associate Dean at NWTC. “Manufacturing is much different than it was even 10 years ago. So this whole Industry 4.0 is about how we change our practices and use information to inform our decision making and to make a better product in a more cost efficient and effective way.”

NWTC educators are already using virtual reality in its classrooms.

Mike Belcher, Director of EdTech Innovation with HP, said 3D printing or additive manufacturing is the way of the future so it’s important to introduce it to students early on in their education.

“These are the skills and the technologies that they will be using in their professional lives,” said Belcher. “You need to grasp and understand certain skills so that's a lot of what this conversation is. What NWTC looks to do is how do is give you those base foundation skills so that I can take those with me to whatever job I do and use those skills there… I've already had an experience with that here. I understand it to at least a degree where I can go use that in my job.”

As technology continues to change and manufacturers turn to one machine to complete multiple jobs, like 3D printers, will there be job loss? Belcher told Action 2 News it will create more jobs across the entire United States.

“If you're doing a skill that's a repetitive-type skill, we think those jobs are going to be doomed. What happens with this, for example additive manufacturing, is it's going to open up more jobs. We’re talking about manufacturing that's occurring overseas, coming back to the U.S. at huge scale,” said Belcher. “We think $2 trillion out of the $12-13 trillion in manufacturing will come back to the U.S. that's going to create huge jobs.”

NWTC wants to make sure its student are ready for those jobs when they get here.

“Being on the forefront of this and having this included in the teaching and the work we do here at the college helps get students excited about these careers,” said Kox.

“I guarantee you, you will see those here in Green Bay within the next 10 years,” said Belcher.

The Trans-Atlantic Technology and Training Alliance Conference (TA3) will last three days at NWTC.