Contrary to some media reports, manufacturing is far from dead. While it’s true that old-fashioned assembly line jobs are dwindling, a new kind of manufacturing industry has emerged and is starved for workers with new skills in mechatronics.
While it may conjure up images of futuristic robots, mechatronics is a term used to describe a specific set of skills that are growing in demand within a variety of industries. This demand has prompted leaders at Cape Fear Community College to offer a new program in mechatronics which starts next month.
Originally, the word mechatronics combined mechanics and electronics, hence the word is a combination of mechanics and electronics; however, as technical systems have become more and more complex, the word has been broadened to include more technical areas. Modern industrial facilities rely on these automated, mechatronics systems in order to be competitive in the global economy.
CFCC is looking to capitalize on this trend by training students to design, develop and maintain these highly complex, automated processing systems.
Students in CFCC’s two-year mechatronics program will learn a diverse set of applications in the areas of design, development, assembly, troubleshooting and repair of automated systems that use electromechanical and servo-mechanical devices, including computer numerical control (CNC) machine tools, linear transfer systems and a variety of automated systems.
Randy Johnson, Department Chair of Engineering Technology at Cape Fear Community College, has heard the requests from employers throughout the area and knows that high-tech manufacturing jobs are available to people with the right skills.
“I get calls on a regular basis from employers looking for qualified job applicants. Cape Fear Community College actively listens to our area employers, and we’ve created this program to meet their needs and enable our graduates to find good jobs locally,” Johnson said.
Johnson explained that there are many local companies that need graduates with the skill set provided by the Mechatronics curriculum, including GE Aviation, GE-Hitachi, Wilmington Machinery and The Acme Smoked Fish Company.
Student applications for the program are being accepted now. Classes begin on August 15 and will be held in the Applied Technologies Building at CFCC’s North Campus in Castle Hayne.
The training gap in manufacturing appears to be a national trend. Due to advances in computer-controlled equipment and processes, over 60 percent of manufacturing employees need at least some college education, according to a U.S Department of Commerce report. And the 2011 Skills Gap Report from the Manufacturing Institute estimated that as many as 600,000 skilled manufacturing jobs were unfilled because employers simply couldn’t find qualified workers.