By Sherry DiBari

Old Dominion University (ODU) will launch Virginia's first four-year major in manufacturing engineering technology (MfgET) at its Norfolk campus and at the Institute for Advanced Learning and Research (IALR), in Danville.

The new major will be offered in the existing Bachelor of Science in Engineering Technology degree program and will be housed in Old Dominion's Batten College of Engineering and Technology's Engineering and Technology Department.

"The Engineering Technology department is excited to be a part of such an exciting initiative and to continue our ongoing partnership with our community college partners so that we can ramp up this much needed workforce pipeline," said Vukica Jovanovic, associate professor and interim chair of Department of Engineering Technology at ODU.

IALR will host third- and fourth-year undergraduate level classes for the MfgET program of ODU on its Danville campus. The classes will be offered with on-site, virtual and hybrid options, leveraging the advanced manufacturing lab space of IALR.

Patrick & Henry Community College (P&HCC), based in Martinsville, will launch a corresponding associate degree in manufacturing engineering technology that will serve as a pipeline to both the workforce and pathway to ODU's program. P&HCC currently offers a general engineering technologies and industrial electronics technologies associate degree, as well as several manufacturing certificates.

The two-year manufacturing engineering technology degree will eventually be available to all colleges within the Virginia Community College System.

"This partnership strengthens the educational pathways and options for Virginia's community college students while providing a much-needed manufacturing engineering workforce for our military and maritime industries," said Khan Iftekharrudin, interim dean of the Batten College of Engineering and Technology.

"Patrick & Henry Community College is proud to be part of this critical initiative which will allow us to help fill local, state, and federal workforce manufacturing engineering pipelines," said J. Gregory Hodges, president of Patrick & Henry Community College. "In particular, this initiative will help our nation remain competitive on the global stage as we prepare talent who possess the skills, knowledge and competencies that are essential for 21st-century manufacturers."

Students in Southern Virginia can enter the program from multiple paths, including community colleges; the Academy for Engineering and Technology resourced by IALR; career and technical dual-enrollment programs; and incumbent workers.

The bachelor's and associate programs are part of the Virginia Maritime Industrial Base Consortium's (VMIBC) "Talent Pipeline Initiative," which aims to develop job-ready talent for defense and industrial base employers through an enhanced K-12-to-university training pipeline. The program has the support of industry partners, who will offer guidance and experiential work opportunities to ensure students graduate well-prepared for the work.

"This partnership reinforces Old Dominion University's commitment to workforce development and leadership in the maritime industry," said ODU President Brian O. Hemphill, Ph.D. "Students across Virginia will be able to gain the necessary skills to fill essential defense jobs, aligning talent with opportunity."

A $5 million grant, announced in October, was awarded by the Department of Defense to the Virginia Office of Veterans and Defense Affairs-led VMIBC, which earned the federal designation of Defense Manufacturing Community. VMIBC includes ODU, IALR, as well as 30 other organizations, as key partners.

"Combining IALR, ODU, and our community college system to produce undergraduate education across Hampton Roads and Southern Virginia creates a force multiplier that strengthens our Maritime Defense Industrial Base and will help ensure America's competitive advantage," said Virginia Secretary of Veterans and Defense Affairs Craig Crenshaw.

The training pipeline will increase manufacturing capacity, capability, resiliency and diversity in the maritime defense industrial base.

"We are delighted to partner with Old Dominion University, Patrick & Henry Community College and the Virginia Community College System to address the need voiced so strongly by the defense industrial base, our regional employers and industry leaders — and we look forward to expanding the program to Danville Community College and other valued partners," said IALR interim president Betty Jo Foster.

Manufacturing industry partners celebrated the new program as well.

"BWX Technologies, Inc. is proud to join with the other partners in supporting this important effort not just for our local community, but also for the Commonwealth of Virginia and our nation," said BWXT Nuclear Operations Group Chief Operating Officer Gary Camper. "Our long-term forecast for naval nuclear propulsion work shows a strong demand for decades and having a consistent pipeline of skilled shop workers and manufacturing engineers is critical to our long-term growth. We place a high priority on recruiting a diverse and talented workforce and are excited for the opportunity to provide input into the curriculum development and subsequent hiring of ready-to-work employees."

Camper is very familiar with ODU's engineering technology program. He and his brothers, Henry and Carl, all graduated with degrees in engineering technology from the University.

On Thursday, President Hemphill, along with President Hodges and Interim President Foster, met on the Danville campus to celebrate with a ceremonial signing.

"I believe that this three-way model, this partnership, will serve as a state and a national model highlighting ways in which multiple organizations can create opportunities to get students and their families out of poverty, to fill our regional and statewide workforce pipeline, and more importantly, maintain America's critical military strength," Hodges said during the event.

The educational partners are developing the curriculum for the 2- and 4-year programs, which will launch in the second year of the grant cycle. Individuals interested in learning more about or enrolling in the programs in Manufacturing Engineering Technology should visit to complete an interest form.

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