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December 03, 2013 | Tom Ballard

Roane State “Mechatronics Showcase” spotlights jobs of the future

Roane State WorkforceBy Tom Ballard, Director of Innovation and Entrepreneurial Initiatives, Pershing Yoakley & Associates, P.C.

Six area companies were demonstrating their wares and executives from two others were sharing their insights about advanced manufacturing job opportunities during yesterday’s “Mechatronics Showcase” in Clinton.

The afternoon event was organized by Roane State Community College (RSCC) and held at the new Clinton Higher Education and Workforce Training Facility.

“We want to help people understand the new jobs in advanced manufacturing and see what training is available to get them prepared for those jobs,” said Deb Miller, RSCC’s Director of Grants Development. She explained that area employers are very supportive of the College’s programs in advanced manufacturing which includes mechatronics.

“They want to get their hands on our graduates,” Miller added, noting that Roane State will graduate the first class from the year-long mechatronics program later this month.

Area companies that set-up displays included ATC Nuclear, Bertelkamp Automation, Eagle Bend Manufacturing, PetSafe, Remotec, and Spectra Tech.

Executives of two area companies – Aerotek and Gilmartin Engineering Works – were also on hand to talk about the advanced manufacturing sector and job opportunities for those with the requisite training.

“Manufacturing has absolutely exploded in the last six to eight months,” said JJ Thomas, Account Recruiting Manager with Aerotek. He called out the automotive sector – locally as well as across the state.

In addition, Thomas noted a particular need for tool and die expertise. “It’s a hard skill to find,” he said.

Gary Gilmartin, President of the firm that bears his name, also cited Volkswagen and Alcoa, where retooling for advanced alloy work is occurring, as examples of the changing job market.

“This program (Roane State’) fits the niche of where the jobs are,” Gilmartin said.

Roane State has made a concerted effort in recent years to be responsive to the training needs of employers, including pursuing and winning several U.S. Department of Labor grants. One of those involves a national consortium of community colleges that developed one-year certificate programs in mechatronics and composite materials.

The mechatronics program trains people to maintain and repair high-tech automated manufacturing systems, and it includes instruction in electronics, mechanics, computer science, robotics, and process control.

In a previous RSCC news release, Program Director Bob Gatton said that electricians working on automated equipment are dealing with “two, three or more systems at a time. Mechatronics gives students a broad discipline that applies to many different industries.”

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