Drs. Biden and Kanter visited Reading Area Community College (RACC) in Reading, PA to learn directly from educators, industry leaders, and students how the mechatronics program is paying off in the area. This program teaches all of the competencies upon which the PMMI Mechatronics Certification Program is based.
Industry managers explained how a perfect storm of expanding operations, increasing technology and baby boomer retirements is stretching their ability to find qualified employees. By utilizing the RACC education and training programs, both new hires and long term employees can develop the skills necessary for today's modern packaging and other manufacturing operations. Employees who had been through the program explained that, by combining mechanical and electrical skills, they were able to decrease downtime, increase productivity and make themselves more upwardly mobile. An older worker who had spent a career as a mechanic before losing his job, went back to schoo,l only to find a better job than the one that he had lost. His new employer has sent him back to the college three times for additional studies.
Managers touted the high rate of return on technical training investments. One company has sent 14 groups of 12 to 20 employees each to the program and is using the program as a model for training at a plant site in Iowa. Another employer has developed a skill-based progressiion system for employees who will be replacing the 50 maintenance personnel that are soon to be retiring. Hershey reported that it is working with colleges across the nation to replicate the RACC program for all of its manufacturing sites.
Dr. Biden spoke of the power of community colleges to change lives and reiterated that they are central to the administration's mission of having the best educated workforce in the world. She thanked the assembled companies for using the community college system to train employees.
Dr. Kanter commented on how siloed schools once were and how an invested business community has helped to change that. She stressed to students that they should expect to go back to school many times over the span of their careers and that community colleges, with their mix of credit and non-credit programs leading to various certificates and degrees, are positioned to allow students to start anywhere and progress to wherever they need to go. As manufacturing is coming back in America, industry can do things differently by partnering with community colleges.
As one who has been involved in the development of both the RACC and the PMMI mechatronics programs, I was honored to be invited to particiapte in this briefing. A video has been prepared on mechatronics at RACC and how it is helping industry. PMMI's program is explained in the mechatronics section of their website. I will be speaking about how to build industrial maintenance and mechatronics programs for manufacturing, processing and packaging operations at the upcoming Automation Conference. Hope to see you there and to hear about how you may be leveraging community colleges in your region.
Finding qualified workers is a mission that seems to be ramping up from employers. Our college has been targeted by employers for machine builders and maintenance technicians at an increased level this year. As an instructor I see employers are continuing to seek individuals with more interest in soft skills and this has been a challenge for us to teach and evaluate.
Posted by: Kevin Lipsky on May 18, 2012