Written by Kinsey Mantay, Regional Apprenticeship Administrator at the Workforce Intelligence Network for Southeast Michigan (WIN)

Not only is apprenticeship a time-tested model for cultivating and developing talent, apprenticeship is also an avenue for innovation allowing employers to maintain a competitive edge on national and international stages.

Though many employers use an apprenticeship model to develop skills for a specific role, some institutions use apprenticeship to develop “generalists” equipped to address current challenges and evolving demands of the future, using the tools and resources available now.

Incite Focus is taking this “generalist”-focused perspective to upskill individuals, specifically those who are “maker minded.” Incite Focus is a world-recognized, cutting-edge production and training lab focused on the relationships between digital fabrication, permaculture, experiential learning and appropriate technology. Their Fab Lab serves as a platform for learning and innovation, where makers can play, learn, create, mentor and invent.

Incite Focus Founder and Executive Director Blair Evans explained the foundation and concept behind the approach to their Maker Professional registered apprenticeship program:

“We [in Michigan] have a culture of making, but the nature of manufacturing is changing. In Michigan specifically, many possess the skills needed for traditional manufacturing, but we need to be able to prototype and evaluate new designs quickly to stay competitive using advanced manufacturing with digital fabrication. Many of the makers who have the skills to create may not know the technologies or their applications in the manufacturing environment, while manufacturers face the challenge of lacking the speed and agility of the maker movement.”

In addition to equipping participants of the Maker Professional apprenticeship program with the needed skills for working in modern-day advanced manufacturing, Evans discussed the program’s emphasis in teaching flexibility as technology continues to impact manufacturing in Michigan:

“In developing the Maker Professional apprenticeship, we considered that in this age of rapidly changing technologies, individuals who can adapt to technological change will provide the most value to their employers. Our apprenticeship is not set up with one particular ‘box’ in mind but helps to grow flexible team players who can change roles and integrate their capabilities within their team, taking an idea and turning it into practice.”

Incite Focus’ role in the apprenticeship program is as the education arm, preparing apprentices for their work in an employer’s environment, and as a small business utilizing advanced manufacturing technology.

“Our Maker Professional registered apprenticeship program is about teaching both maker skills and computer-aided design skills, which interface to all sorts of rapid prototyping machines—virtually, all the industrial skills needed to ‘make stuff,’” says Evans. “We are training generalists from teenagers to young adults to the under- and unemployed to have the ability to integrate their skills in a technology-driven changing environment.”

Incite Focus also is committed to empowering Detroiters to help the city reach and maintain its full potential within the global economy. “Registered apprenticeship is one of the specific mechanisms that’s designed to solve problems today but also position Detroit to develop solutions to the kinds of problems that are only beginning to be understood at this time,” said Evans.

The Advance Michigan Center for Apprenticeship Innovation (AMCAI) is supporting Incite Focus through the development of new apprenticeship standards and provision of resources. For more information about creating a registered apprenticeship program in any field, contact an AMCAI partner at miapprenticeship.org/contact. More information on apprenticeship is available at MIApprenticeship.org.

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