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Grant to Expand Logistics Automation, Supply Chain Management Programming

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Robotics instructor Tina Collins with student Alex Lavrenchik
Daniel O`Brien

LEXINGTON – Wednesday, March 1, 2022 – The Minuteman Regional Vocational Technical School District recently received a $150,000 Skills Capital Grant from the Commonwealth to expand robotics and automation programming. The funding will be used to teach students Industry 4.0 skills amid a rapidly expanding logistics automation and supply chain management industry.

Logistics automation and supply chain management are crucial aspects of today’s global economy, which have only increased in importance since the pandemic began. Minuteman is expanding its programming in response to student interest and the needs of the workforce. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, there has been a 140% increase in employees in the transportation and warehousing industry since 2012.

“This is a perfect example of supporting a form of career technical education that directly energizes the regional workforce and the economy,” said Edward A. Bouquillon, Superintendent-Director of Minuteman. “The Skills Capital Grant provides for technology and skills needed today in a rapidly changing global market.”

Robotics instructor Tina Collins with student Alex Lavrenchik

Alexander Lavernchik, a Minuteman High School Engineering student from Stow, observes Robotics instructor Tina Collins operate a numeric test board at Minuteman High School in the fall of 2021. The Skills Capital Grant will benefit both Minuteman High School and Minuteman Technical Institute adult students.

Through Governor Charlie Baker’s Workforce Skills Cabinet, this year’s Skills Capital Grants will total $3.3 million and benefit 20 schools across the state. Since 2015, 407 grants totaling $105 million have benefitted 207 schools or educational organizations.

Minuteman’s business partners, including Abel Womack, Festo Didactic, and Locust Robotics are serving as advisors to the new programming.

“Exposing, inspiring, and teaching students about cyber-physical systems – the building blocks of the smart factory revolution – opens up so many successful career pathways,” said Mark Downey, chair of Minuteman’s Engineering Advisory Committee, a 1987 Minuteman alumnus and applications manager for Analog Devices of Wilmington. “Minuteman’s hands-on curriculum introduces students to these opportunities, which are critical to the modernization of Industry 4.0 and growing markets.”

Minuteman has letter of support from Quinsigamond Community College for a potential articulation agreement, which could allow Minuteman’s high school and adult students to receive course credit toward an associate degree. Simultaneously, Quinsigamond students could access Minuteman’s automated warehouse for hands-on learning.

“The logistics and supply chain industries have been rapidly automating and as a result requiring more technological skills within its workforce,” said Jennifer Stephens, chair of Minuteman’s Robotics Automation Advisory Committee and robotics and automation instructor for Mount Wachusett Community College. “Students entering this field need hands-on experience to develop the needed competencies to work in the industry. The Skills Capital Grant will provide the funding for the acquisition of the technology and equipment to support the development of these skills.”

The expanded capacity will allow for an increase in students who want to enroll in the Robotics and Automation career major at Minuteman High School. The funding will also benefit students in the Engineering and Advanced Manufacturing majors, as well as adult evening students in Minuteman Technical Institute.

Minuteman’s new building, which opened in 2019, features a warehouse designed to teach students skills in the logistics industry. With the help of the grant, the goal is to fund technology to grow the space into full-service, automated warehouse with racking systems, materials to handle equipment such as pallet movers and forklifts, and an automated inventory control system. Students will gain skills in the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT), Artificial Intelligence (AI), Augmented Reality (AR) and Mechatronics.

Minuteman students will sequence and run the software and automated equipment and systems as part of the expanded logistics automation programming. Students will earn industry-recognized credentials that cover skills in distribution, warehousing, inventory management, data analyses, invoicing, purchasing and supply chain activities common to many occupations.