A technical college program popular with the area manufacturing industry is seeing its enrollment and graduate totals rise after concerted efforts in recent years.
Nationally and locally, mechatronics is an industrial program of study that provides a worker profile fit for today’s advanced manufacturing environment: a higher-skilled worker who can work with cutting-edge technology and robotics.
Mechatronics is a field of study that involves the integration of mechanics, electronics and computer science in product design and manufacturing.
Graduates have the skills and knowledge to troubleshoot electrical and mechanical issues with industrial equipment, such as robots that are often utilized for repetitive and routine work tasks in today’s modern plants.
Central Carolina Technical College had 20 graduates from its program in July 2016 – its biggest graduating class ever – and with 50 new students starting last year, the class of 2017 should reach a new record high.
“In the summer of 2017, we estimate around 40 graduates,” said Bert Hancock, academic program manager for Mechatronics at CCTC.
The program is housed at Central Carolina’s new Advanced Manufacturing Technology Training Center on Broad Street that opened about a year ago.
“We have more room at the new facility, which has helped with the numbers,” Hancock said. “But, the recruiting side is especially important.”
According to Hancock, keys to recruitment have been talking more to high school students, school district career and technology centers beginning basic mechatronics programs, and especially that more parents are finding out about the CCTC program.
“My philosophy is: The more the parents know, the better off everybody will be,” Hancock said. “With two years of education beyond high school, you can get a good job. Parents realize ‘there is an opportunity for my child here locally.'”
Hancock said starting wages for a mechatronics graduate as a technician with a local industry is between $18 and $24 per hour.
“That’s in the $40,000 range and with overtime you could expect more,” Hancock said.
As far as a typical student profile, Hancock says the program is perfect for teenagers and young adults who like to tinker with stuff at home – hand tools, cars, etc. Coming out of high school with good communication skills and basic math skills, with the ability to solve problems, are also important. But most critical, according to Hancock, is being a “go-getter.”
Hancock noted that manufacturing today has changed drastically over previous decades when low-cost, low-skilled labor was in demand.
“These companies have multi-million dollar pieces of equipment,” Hancock said. “You have to have some technical training to work in most manufacturing plants today.”
Hancock said now and into the future he thinks postsecondary education beyond high school is becoming increasingly critical.
“I see the days coming where companies will be only looking at young people’s resumes if they have some postsecondary education on it,” Hancock said.