The Advanced Manufacturing Talent Pipeline Forming on Chicago’s West Side


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Advanced manufacturing can be used as an entry point into many different industries, but finding those opportunities can be challenging. One company in Chicago is creating a pathway within the community to highlight those possibilities. 3Degrees offers a free, eight-week program called AMx, where the goal of this course is to expose adults to the career pathways that are available through advanced manufacturing in an accelerated and practical manner.

The idea was created by Mike Vasquez, owner of 3Degrees. Mike provides 3D printing and materials science consultation to additive manufacturing companies, finding one striking similarity among all of them: the need to grow their team with people that have experience in manufacturing.

“I’ve seen this first-hand as an entrepreneur running two companies that help large manufacturing organizations (e.g., government, aerospace, automotive) implement 3D printing technology. My clients tell me time and again that they have well-paying, benefit-eligible jobs that they cannot fill. It seems there’s something missing when it comes to training the manufacturing talent of the future. On the flip side, access to finding jobs in this industry is not straightforward. Most of these companies are small (<100 employees) and, unless you have some network or understanding of the industry, you may not know what’s happening in the concrete, nondescript, windowless buildings on the side of the highway.”

In an effort to find a solution and take advantage of untapped pipelines of talent that exist in underserved neighborhoods (especially like those on the west side of Chicago), AMx was created.

AMx Cohort 3 touring Sciaky

Advanced manufacturing is an industry that is rapidly evolving, which is why AMx provides mentorship and industry tours alongside a conventional classroom curriculum. Many companies opened their doors for facility tours, including Renishaw, Impossible Objects, mHub, Azul 3D, MxD, Sciaky, and Daley Community College. Each student is paired with at least one industry mentor in sectors ranging from automotive and aerospace to medical, just to name a few. Networking is a critical factor for a successful manufacturing career, but the program also gives students insight into what a typical workday would be like within an industry.

The current course is focused on industrial 3D printing and the workflow required to make production parts. AMx offers a hands-on, internal curriculum provided by America Makes called Additive Edge, where students are taught different methods of how to utilize 3D printing. They then pitch their business ideas to their peers using those concepts, concluding the course with a presentation of their ideas. Students also receive insight from leaders in the advanced manufacturing industry, including: Ryan Larson, Director of Digital and 3D Cushioning at Nike; Dave Krzeminski, Senior Consultant at EOS; SJ Jones, Velo3D; Carl Dekker, President at Met-l-Flo; Casey Melvin, The Future of Jewelry; and Yash Bandari, an Additive Manufacturing Product Manager at Meltio. AMx is supported by several partners including America Makes, West Side Forward, and the Illinois Manufacturing Excellence Center.

Nathan Peckus, an AMx graduate, attested to the networking and industry insight AMx provides, saying, “My favorite part and most beneficial to me was getting to take a peek behind the curtains of some of Chicagoland’s innovative companies. Getting the opportunity to meet and connect with leaders in the industry was great and helped strengthen my network.” The strong connections Nathan made led to a part-time role at Impossible Objects, where he received more hands-on experience and knowledge of carbon fiber 3D printing.

David Brask, the Director of Manufacturing and Procurement at Impossible Objects said, “The AMx program helped us accelerate our hiring of qualified individuals for hard-to-fill roles. The learning curve to bring people up to speed is notably faster and retention is higher due to the candidate’s interest in the industry and avenues for personal growth.”

AMx tour at Impossible Objects in Northbrook, IL

Josh Cramer, the Director of Education and Workforce Development at America Makes, expressed how “America Makes Education and Workforce drives on a national strategy through local impact missions, ensuring that we can meet every learner, where they learn and how they learn. America Makes has been supportive and engaged with the AMx program since its inception. The team has provided opportunities to sync in strategy and deployment as well as to link into national platforms and programs at America Makes. AMx has been able to and will continue to leverage national best practice training and outreach programs through the institute as well as promoting new trainees throughout the America Makes membership. We continue to applaud the efforts of our member/s in the region and will always remain strong supporters of the AMx team. We are honored to consider AMx part of AMNation!”

Jesus Lazaro, an alumnus of the AMx course, noted the value of the hands-on experience and how he was able to earn a role at Impossible Objects and bring a friend on board: “My friend had no experience whatsoever in additive or advanced manufacturing. I told him about the opportunity, and he expressed how ‘if you can do it, I can do it.’ Now, I’m training him on how to operate the machines.”

Understanding the technology can be a real challenge, especially for new personnel. The hands-on experience provided by AMx creates a smooth transition into the workforce for trainers and trainees. Ryan Larson, Nike’s Direct of Digital and 3D Cushioning, mentioned that “as a longtime user of AM technologies, one of the most time intensive aspects for me has been the training associated with bringing on new employees and teammates who may have only heard about 3D printing.” As the course progresses, students’ comprehension of the hardware, materials, and software significantly improves.

AMx tour of Renishaw in West Dundee, IL

The course aims to leave its students feeling confident and empowered going into the workforce while benefiting both industry and communities. The only qualities necessary to get started in advanced manufacturing are an open mind, a positive work ethic, and a willingness to work with your hands. As time goes on, 3Degrees plans on expanding the course throughout the US to expand the advanced manufacturing pipeline to multiple states.

So, do you like working with your hands? Are you looking for a direct path into a budding industry? Or are you interested in being a mentor or host of a local AMx cohort.? Learn more about the Advanced Manufacturing Experience and tap into your potential today!

About 3Degrees:

3Degrees helps companies implement winning 3D Printing solutions through practical insights and materials expertise. It was founded in 2012 by Dr. Mike Vasquez. The team has decades of expertise in material design and selection, part evaluation, training and safety and designing 3D Printing roadmaps and long-term strategies. 3Degrees is also a member of America Makes and is based in Chicago, IL.

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