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Advanced Manufacturing – Where Technology Meets Innovation

Jun 1, 2018

Due to the recent economic downturn and technology advances, there are many who are concerned about the impact on manufacturing jobs. While it is true there have been some manufacturing job losses, there have also been gains that are propelling manufacturing to the forefront. This is important because manufacturing helps to create economic stability in communities by helping to move workers up the wage ladder.

According to a report from the Milken Institute, “For every job created in manufacturing, 2.5 jobs are created in other sectors.” And for every STEM-related manufacturing job created, the number of jobs created in other sectors is even higher.

Emerging technologies and innovative methodologies

Dr. Jeffrey Smith and a studentAdvanced manufacturing utilizes emerging technologies and innovative methodologies to improve both products and the manufacturing process. While lower-skill processes may now be automated and/or handled overseas, workers trained in advanced manufacturing processes and technologies are thriving. If the U.S. manufacturing sector were a country all on its own, it would still rank as the eighth largest economy in the world.

Bay Area employers need workers with a high level of technical skill to run and maintain complex machines, robots and computer systems. Unlike manufacturing jobs of the past, these new jobs are clean, steady and offer good pay.

In fact, factory workers are some of the best paid workers in the country. According to AJ Jorgenson of the Manufacturing Institute, “Today’s manufacturing employees earn higher wages and receive more generous benefits than other working Americans.” Unfortunately, there is a skills gap with too few technical workers available to fill too many jobs. Jorgenson notes, “Eighty percent of manufacturers report they cannot find individuals with the skills required.”

While the Labor Department reports that manufacturing jobs have declined 35 percent since 1980, the industry has seen a steady resurgence in recent years as companies move operations back to the United States. Today, manufacturing is leaner but smarter. This means the jobs that “return” to the U.S. are different than those that left. These returning jobs are more technical, requiring training.

Advanced Manufacturing at DVC

Diablo Valley College is an outstanding resource for the kind of training needed for these technical jobs. Dr. Jeffrey Smith is an adjunct professor who teaches within DVC’s new industrial design and advanced manufacturing programs. These programs include courses in industrial design, SolidWorks, technical drawing and computer numeric control (CNC).

Dr. Smith notes, “I think DVC has some incredible programs. Within our engineering technology building, we have industrial design, architecture, engineering, construction management and electronics…We share many of the technical classes, and also use many of the rapid prototyping machines. Our students develop 3D CAD models that are later built from laser cutters, 3D printers and CNC machining equipment…Our engineering technology programs have far better equipment than most four-year colleges.”

Dr. Jeffrey Smith and students

Diablo Valley College’s faculty creates connections with local employers to enrich the student experience and lead to gainful employment in the field. Within DVC’s industrial design and manufacturing programs, businesses have presented students with design challenges.

Dr. Smith shares, “Our design challenges have ranged from designing ‘on the go’ water bottles for Brita to designing tents and backpacks for Colombia/Mountain Hardware…We recently reached out to Autodesk and developed a ‘Design for Industry’ challenge using their advanced 3D modeling Fusion software.” DVC students designed speakers and headphones for BOSE and Sennheiser, taking home $1500 in cash prizes.

Dr. Smith said, “I am always amazed how talented DVC’s students are, and how they rise to these industry challenges.”


Jordan Lai

Jordan LaiJordan Lai is an industrial design major at Diablo Valley College. He will be graduating this Spring with an associate in science degree in industrial design, as well as a certificate in computer aided drafting. He will transfer to a university to complete his bachelor’s degree in industrial design.

“The teachers and staff in the architecture and industrial design department are nothing short of outstanding. It’s hard to find people in general to be so passionate about what they do, as well as pass that on to students. The students feed off of the professors’ passion and vice versa…I’m impressed by my peers’ talents, and the different talents that each individual brings to the table. It enriches the learning environment and really expands our creativity,” Jordan said.

While attending DVC, Jordan also works in his field. “I work for Dyson, and I am a product expert,” said Jordan. “My education has greatly helped me in my corporate job. Being in industrial design, specifically a product design major, I think was a factor in why I was hired. My ability to relate product features and why the end user would find them useful I think was the key part. At work, we also collaborate on projects and with retail partners, and my education has taught me how to work more effectively in a group environment…For instance, this semester, I am leading three design projects with peers, and I never would have imagined myself doing this.”

Jordan’s experience at DVC has meant a lot to him. He says, “I absolutely recommend DVC to prospective students. I have met and befriended people from France, Belgium, Australia and China to name a few. I have also met individuals from all walks of life. DVC is an excellent environment to enrich not just your education, but more importantly your life…It’s a stepping stone to what lies ahead in life but the time spent here has truly prepared me for it in more ways than I can imagine.”


Reports. (n.d.). The Manufacturing Institute.

DeVol, Ross C., et al. “Manufacturing 2.0 – A More Prosperous California.” The Milken Institute, Manufacturing 2.0 – A More Prosperous California, June 2009,

Fruth, William H. “The Flow of Money – How a Local Economy Grows and Expands.” Polycom Corporation, The Flow of Money – How a Local Economy Grows and Expands, Jan. 2018,

“First Person: The Importance of Manufacturing to the U.S. Economy.” Area Development, Advanced Manufacturing,

Pizzo, Laura. “Defining Advanced Manufacturing and Pinpointing Its Hubs.” Emsi – Economic Modeling, Emsi, 20 Nov. 2017,