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  • Writer's pictureOlivia Liu

Interviews : An Overview

Updated: Dec 8, 2023

An overview of conversations with experts in education, economy, and manufacturing.

Online Research

  • North Central State College, Mansfield, Ohio

  • Westmoreland County Community College, Youngwood, Pennsylvania

  • Center for Occupational Research and Development, Waco, Texas

  • Northwest Michigan Works!, Cadillac, Michigan

  • Patrick & Henry Community College, Martinsville, Virginia

Methodology: Found each institution’s website, took notes on any pages about workforce development or career training initiatives.


  1. Dr. Bryan Albrecht, President and CEO, Gateway Technical College, Kenosha, Wisconsin

  2. Mrs. Gayle Manchin, Federal Co-chair, Appalachian Regional Commission, Washington, D.C.

  3. Hannah Rodriguez, Program Officer, Manistee County Community Foundation, Manistee, Michigan

  4. Nico Thomas, Economist, National Institute of Standards and Technology, Gaithersburg, Maryland

  5. Craig McAtee, CEO, National Coalition of Advanced Technology Centers, Solon, Ohio

  6. Michael Minter, Director, Career Academy, Martinsville, Virginia

  7. Bill Donohue, Executive Director, GENEDGE, Martinsville, Virginia

1. Interview with Dr. Bryan Albrecht, President and CEO of Gateway Technical College

Virtual over Zoom – August 3rd, 2022

Dr. Albrecht is the President and CEO of the Gateway Technical College in Kenosha, Wisconsin. As one of sixteen technical colleges in Wisconsin, Gateway serves two urban counties (Racine County and Kenosha County) and one rural county (Walworth County), which holds several rural farming communities and specialized industries.

Gateway administers courses for two-year associate degrees, technical training programs, and one-year diploma programs. Gateway also partners with several K-12 schools to support over 8,000 students in dual enrollment courses.

Main discussion points:

Gateway collects data about workforce needs to ensure that its students are prepared for open job opportunities. Through Gateway’s “customized training approach,” manufacturing employers can modify Gateway’s curriculums to fit their skill requisites.

The presence of manufacturing in any community is often hidden because people only see an end product, not the process by which it is made. To get more people interested in manufacturing as a career path, the sector’s relevance to the daily lives of Americans must be emphasized.

Americans should start learning about manufacturing from high school age or younger, so that youth who aspire to start manufacturing careers can embark on the appropriate educational pathway early through dual enrollment and transferrable college courses and then go on to receive post-secondary two-year or four-year degrees.

2. Interview with Mrs. Gayle Manchin, Federal Co-chair of the Appalachian Regional Commission

Written response over email – August 8th, 2022

Mrs. Manchin leads the Appalachian Regional Commission (ARC), a partnership between the federal government and 13 state governments working to solidify the economic ecosystems of 423 counties in the Appalachian region. The ARC has five investment priorities: building businesses, workforce ecosystems, building Appalachia’s infrastructure, regional culture and tourism, and local leaders and capacity.

The ARC gives grants to budding businesses and industries, expands social infrastructure for members of the workforce, develops transportation and broadband networks in the Appalachian region, and provides technical training to current or aspiring workers.

The ARC also administers four academies, including one for high school students interested in STEM and one for adults aspiring to incite positive change in their home communities.

Main discussion points

Following John F. Kennedy’s vision that all regions of America receive equitable economic opportunity, the ARC strives to ensure that a community’s prosperity is not defined by its zip code.

The value of community colleges, trade schools, and small universities in the Appalachia is their ability to modify curriculums to meet regional workforce needs. These educational institutions enable learners of all backgrounds and career aspirations receive equitable access to educational advancement.

In response to the Appalachia’s drug epidemic, employers in the region should be open-minded about recruiting workers in recovery and must be willing to form support systems for those workers through peer support networks, criminal justice entities, recovery communities, and job training.

3. Interview with Hannah Rodriguez, Program Officer at Manistee County Community Foundation in Manistee, Michigan

Virtual over Zoom – July 18th, 2022

Ms. Rodriguez is the program officer at the Manistee County Community Foundation (MCCF), in Manistee, Michigan, serves as a place-based philanthropic organization that builds community endowment, makes grants to address community needs, and leads community-wide initiatives in education, the arts, youth, environment, and economic development. Within the MCCF, Ms. Rodriguez coordinates the Launch Manistee Network (LMN), a partnership of local businesses, childcare centers, college access networks, youth councils, and community colleges that guides Manistee residents from early childhood education to adult post-secondary education. The network operates on the “collective impact model” philosophy, which states that change in the educational system is only achieved through cross-sector collaboration.

Main discussion points

It is important for any small community like Manistee to find a sustainable medium between a) encouraging local youth to remain in the community for employment and b) finding alternative talent pipelines to stimulate local economic growth.

The Launch Manistee Network emphasizes the importance of post-secondary education, whether in the form of six-month certifications or the form of four-year college degrees.

Within its annual strategic plan, the network sets three long-term goals regarding access to quality early childhood care, high school graduation rate, and post-secondary educational attainment rate. The plan identifies specific action items for achieving those goals and which partner institutions can execute each action item.

4. Interview with Nico Thomas, Economist at NIST

Virtual over Zoom – July 29th, 2022

Mr. Thomas is an economist at the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) in the Manufacturing Extension Partnership (MEP). The MEP works closely with small- to medium-sized manufacturers to maximize their production efficiencies, competitiveness, and employee recruitment and retention. Mr. Thomas studies nationwide manufacturing trends and has extensive knowledge of the challenges and advantages that rural manufacturers face.

Main discussion points

The COVID-19 pandemic, which exposed the country’s supply chain weaknesses and forced businesses to rely on local rather than overseas suppliers, spurred the United State government’s re-shoring effort. As corporations are searching for locations to build their factories, the Rust Belt region has shown potential for manufacturing revival.

Automated technologies spur the creation of jobs, contrary to common belief. As manufacturing equipment become more complex and their functions become more nuanced, the demand for human operators in factories increases.

Robust lines of communication between manufacturers and workforce institutions (colleges, non-profits, state-government programs) will enable smaller manufacturers with less capital to invest in on-the-job workforce training and overcome their struggles with employer recruitment and retention.

5. Interview with Craig McAtee, CEO of the National Coalition of Advanced Technology Centers (NCATC)

Virtual over Zoom – August 30th, 2022

Mr. McAtee leads the National Coalition of Advanced Technology Centers (NCATC), a non-profit organization formed by IBM and Lucent Technologies 35 years ago, connects over 175 community colleges in all corners of the United States to over 50 major industry partners, such as Siemens, FANUC, and Festo. Through its communication with those corporations, NCATC provides technical assistance in advanced technology and manufacturing to community colleges within the American Association of Community Colleges.

Main discussion points:

Intermediaries, third-party organizations that help employers launch and administer apprenticeship programs, enable employers of all sizes to establish work-based learning opportunities.

NCATC oversees networks of educators who engage in constant discussion each other to demystify the Fourth Industrial Revolution (Industry 4.0), a term that collectively describes the rapidly advancing technologies in today’s manufacturing sector, such as smart automation and digital twins. The educators hope to craft curriculums that teach the technical skills relevant to the cutting-edge technologies.

Employers must proactively contribute to the workforce training process, rather than rely on educators alone to form qualified talent pools.

6. Interview with Michael Minter, Director of Career Academy in Martinsville, Virginia

Virtual over Zoom – September 1st, 2022

Mr. Minter is the director of the Career Academy in Martinsville, Virginia, a vocational school that serves two public high schools in the Henry County Public School system: Magna Vista High School and Bassett High School. Morning and afternoon, students from both schools have the opportunity to spend two blocks at the Career Academy facility, receiving instruction in career fields such as cybersecurity, agriculture, and veterinary sciences.

Main discussion points:

Students who receive technical training certifications in high school are granted the option to enter skilled jobs in the workforce straight after graduation.

Through its connections with local businesses, employers, and participation in grant programs, the Career Academy helps local students find on-the-job training opportunities within their desired fields even if they do not take classes at the Career Academy.

To ensure that the school’s curriculums remain applicable to workforce demands over several years, the Career Academy’s administrative staff actively participate in economic and educational boards.

7. Interview with Bill Donohue, Executive Director of GENEDGE

Virtual over Zoom – September 2nd, 2022

Mr. Donohue is the Executive Director of GENEDGE, the Virginia state center of the NIST Manufacturing Extension Partnership (MEP). GENEDGE helps manufacturing, technology, and engineering companies remain competitive by consulting them on technological trends and workforce retention.

Main discussion points

Martinsville’s manufacturing sector is currently experiencing a revival after experiencing substantial economic decline starting in the late 1990s. Martinsville has been able to attract employers due to the community’s industrial parks and substantial workforce.

The southern region of Virginia has the lowest workforce participation rate in the state. It is important to consider that workforce recruitment challenges result not just from a lack of human capital but also a population’s unwillingness to work.

GENEDGE partners with several four-year colleges in Virginia to guide college students toward careers in the manufacturing sector. For example, GENEDGE aided the development of makerspaces used for the production of manufacturing equipment at Old Dominion University and James Madison University.

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