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Institute for Digital Enterprise Advancement to direct funding for students and employers in North Alabama.

Victory Solutions has partnered with Auburn University, Calhoun Community College, and the newly created Institute for Digital Engineering Advancement (IDEA) to utilize a $500,000 award from the Department of Defense to develop a digital engineering curriculum to educate the next generation of systems engineering technicians. The award represents year one of a five-year grant totaling $9.9 million.

Development and implementation of the Systems Engineering Technician Program, SET, has been in work for several years. In 2016 Victory Solutions Chief Executive Officer, Kristine McGuire, was appointed by Congressman Aderholt (AL 4th District) to the Board of the Tennessee Valley Corridor (TVC) with the mandate to identify educational opportunities in support of TVC regional goals. Through Victory’s Model Based System Engineering (MBSE) support to the Missile Defense Agency and NASA Marshall Space Flight Center, our team identified a critical US industrial base skill gap: a readily available workforce of digital modelers trained to support systems engineers. This led to the concept of a 2-year degree in Systems Engineering Technology (SET) which will appeal to graduating high school students and career transitioning professionals including returning veterans (McGuire is a disabled veteran herself).

The nonprofit IDEA will be the central hub for the SET initiative. Overall implementation will be led by Auburn Engineering associate professor Greg Harris and assistant professor Greg Purdy, both of the Department of Industrial and Systems Engineering; James Payne, dean for Business and Computer Information Systems at Calhoun Community College; David Alan Smith, senior vice president of Victory Solutions; and Chris Crumbly, executive director of IDEA.

“Our SET curriculum will prepare a workforce of systems engineers equipped with the digital engineering skills necessary to enable future U.S. technology development,” Harris said. “Systems are much more complex today and there is a great demand for systems engineers from organizations such as the Department of Defense, NASA and the Department of Energy. The SET program will address this demand and establish a workforce pipeline to enable trained systems engineers to make an impact.”

The SET curriculum will feature a strong focus on exposure to various industries with a need for systems engineers and will emphasize internship opportunities for program participants to gain hands-on experience. “It’s imperative, on both economic and national security grounds, that we identify and achieve efficiency gains in our engineering and product development processes,” Payne said. “People looking to start a technical career in the Huntsville area will find this program to be a promising addition to the opportunities Calhoun already offers. We look forward to building this program from the ground up and establishing it as a nationwide standard.”

Students in the program will have direct access to prominent companies in the aerospace and manufacturing industry in the form of guest lecturers and other involvement coordinated by Victory Solutions. We are working to establish SET internships to provide students with real-world experience while offering our government and industry partners insight to SET capabilities as well as the opportunity to fine tune the SET curriculum over time”, Smith said.

Ultimately, the vision of the researchers and industry partners involved in bringing the SET program to fruition is to provide a national collaborative center in the form of the nonprofit IDEA, where best practices and solutions in digital engineering and manufacturing will be identified, shared and recommended. “IDEA will introduce the SET concept to community college systems across the nation and remain as a subject matter expert to support education and connect organizations with experts, graduates and interns,” Crumbly said.