WEST LAFAYETTE, IN—Accenture and Purdue University have formed an initiative that will focus on developing a smart manufacturing workforce. Specifically, Accenture will provide funding to support two strategic areas.

The Accenture Smart Factory will provide instructional laboratories, design studios and spaces where students from various disciplines will collaborate on smart manufacturing projects. It will also serve as a central hub for joint innovation projects.

The Accenture Smart Manufacturing Scholars Program will provide funds for select qualified students to receive the equivalent of in-state tuition every year for up to four years. It will include a Women in Manufacturing scholarship designed to attract more female engineers, and drive inclusion and diversity in the industry.

“With the Accenture Smart Factory and the Accenture Manufacturing Scholars Program, we can prepare more students for exciting future careers in smart manufacturing,” says Daniel Castro, dean of the Purdue Polytechnic Institute, through which Purdue offers an undergraduate major in smart manufacturing industrial informatics. “At the same time, this venture allows [us] to meet the needs of our partners in industry who are desperately seeking career-ready graduates with the skills we will teach in this new facility.”

According to Castro, smart manufacturing uses digital technologies, such as artificial intelligence, the cloud, robotics and 5G to build products. Industry experts believe the United States’ need for a workforce with core knowledge and skills in this field is growing faster than the country’s current ability to produce qualified workers.

“We are excited about this new partnership, particularly the Women in Manufacturing scholarship, which will help drive more inclusion and diversity in engineering roles,” notes Shiv Iyer, Accenture’s market unit lead for the Midwest. “By partnering with Purdue, we hope to inspire more students to pursue a career in digital manufacturing in the future.”

“Companies are not just rebuilding manufacturing in North America; they are reinventing it,” adds Aaron Saint, who leads Accenture’s digital engineering and manufacturing service, Industry X, in North America. “Factories of the future will rely on automation, data analysis and digital twins to enhance productivity, safety and quality.

“They need a workforce with those skills,” explains Saint. “The Accenture Smart Factory will provide the right platform for innovation in this next era, and this collaboration with Purdue will equip tomorrow’s workforce with the skills they need for a successful career in digital manufacturing.”