Community and technical colleges may soon have an opportunity to access federal funding for manufacturing initiatives under a new program included in the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA). Members of the U.S. House and Senate responsible for negotiating a final compromise NDAA bill agreed to the initiative in the final days of the 2016 Congressional session.
The Manufacturing Engineering Education Grant Program will be administered by the Department of Defense in consultation with the Secretary of Education, the Director of the National Science Foundation, the Director of the Office of Science and Technology and Policy, and the Secretaries of other federal agencies as the Secretary of Defense considers appropriate.
Eligible uses of grant funds include enhancement of existing programs; establishment of new programs; faculty development; opportunities for students to obtain work experience; and direct faculty and student engagement with industry. Community and technical colleges may apply for the grants, although there is a provision emphasizing geographical distribution of funding. Selection criteria include effective engagement of industry; innovative approaches for improving manufacturing engineering and technology; promotion of careers in manufacturing; and proposed participation by women, members of minority groups and individuals with disabilities at significant levels.
While the new program has been approved in concept, it will be some time before any dollars could be distributed. The Department of Defense will need to develop program guidelines and an application process, and then Congress must provide funds.