Each partnering education institution must have personnel motivated to establish these pathways and programs, who are actively engaged with and responsive to their industrial counterparts. Academic institutions with plans to continually update content with industry input will improve the competitiveness of their alumni. Industry, likewise, should reach out to academic institutions and engage in long-term, sustained investment in strategic partnerships. Large majorities of industry respondents prioritize re-training of the existing workforce in transferable skills and the establishment of pathways for upward mobility of employees throughout their career as vital to the retention of a qualified workforce.

The future of composites manufacturing is one in which new college graduates enter the workforce with a broad, relevant and up-to-date knowledge of composites manufacturing methods and materials. Projects to achieve this future include development of industry-led standards for accreditation, creation of pathways to climb the employment ladder and development of instruction modules to increase composites’ visibility and teach a generation of design engineers how to incorporate composites. Putting these enabling projects in motion is the goal of a comprehensive workforce development plan.

Next Steps

In the first FIBERS workshops, industry professionals challenged the team to not just deliver a roadmap, but to facilitate initiation of concrete proposed actions. This is the first priority for the consortium. All proposed activities will involve a broad range of stakeholders, from OEMs to material suppliers and education experts. Many projects will require significant funding.

The FIBERS team, working with ACMA and many workshop participants, is pursuing the development and implementation of more than 30 demonstration projects and initiatives. One demonstration project is fabrication of a composite inner hood for the automotive sector made at cycle times and costs on par with the steel and aluminum parts they will displace. The objective is to bring the component from concept to market within two years. This project will engage participants throughout the supply chain, including OEMs, material suppliers, tooling, automation and modeling.

Another area of focus is boosting the availability of a qualified workforce. A project team is working on an education initiative to develop composites and processing modules that can be deployed within existing college curricula. Education modules can be easily implemented by teachers and faculty through off-the-shelf modules are available that contain full lesson plans, a bill of materials for laboratories and example questions. Initially these modules may focus on undergraduate and graduate courses, but they can be expanded to support high school, community college and short-course programsWorking together, the roadmap can be implemented to grow composites manufacturing industry in the U.S. and use composites materials to meet and exceed national objectives for energy, fuel