Posts Tagged ‘Manufacturing’

Help Wanted: Industrial Maintenance Technicians

Friday, January 6th, 2012

maintenance technician

A recent New York Times article offers some hopeful economic news, reporting that “for the first time in many years, manufacturing stands out as an area of strength in the American economy.” According to a December 2011 report from the Institute for Supply Management, manufacturing grew at its fastest pace in six months, and as the New York Times story goes on to say, “When the Labor Department reports December employment numbers on Friday, it is expected that manufacturing companies will have added jobs in two consecutive years. Until last year, there had not been a single year when manufacturing employment rose since 1997.”

And that, in turn, is great news for industrial maintenance technicians – the people who literally keep things running in manufacturing.

Think about it: Without smooth-running machines, there would be no manufacturing industry. And without industrial maintenance technicians, there would be no guarantees that machines would run smoothly. Whether it’s repairing pumps, fine-tuning motors, or doing preventative maintenance on engines and conveyor belts, industrial maintenance technicians play key roles in helping manufacturers gain efficiency and control costs.

If you’re mechanically inclined and enjoy working on a wide variety of different projects or if you’ve ever been called a “jack of all trades,” this might be a career path to consider.

Here’s a look at what’s included in a few of the numerous industrial maintenance training programs available at community colleges around the country:

The Advanced Integrated Technology program that ATETV visited this week at Madisonville Community College in Kentucky offers a specialized Multi-Skilled Industrial Technician training option, leading to an Associate in Applied Science (AAS) degree. The program is designed to provide students with the skills and knowledge needed for jobs in both the manufacturing and industrial sectors, and provides training that will enable graduates to perform a variety of different tasks previously performed by a number of field-specific technicians.

At Minnesota’s Riverland Community College, the Industrial Maintenance & Mechanics program students receive training in the maintenance and repair of industrial equipment including operation of lathes, mills, drills and small tools used for machine repair. According to the school’s website, programs focus on hydraulics, pneumatics, piping, sheet metal, electrical, bearings and seals, blueprint reading, preventative/predictive maintenance, safety and welding.

At Kilgore College in Texas, the Industrial Maintenance Program offers associate of applied science degrees as well as certificates of completion for careers in the industrial workforce. Launched in August 2008 at the request of local industry, the program today offers training that will lead to careers in large manufacturing companies as well as industrial machinery and maintenance technology.

The Industrial Maintenance Technician Certificate Program at Ohio’s Sinclair Community College provides students with training and skills needed to install, maintain and troubleshoot modern industrial machinery. Based within the college’s Automation and Control Technology Department, the program teaches students to solve practical maintenance problems as well as providing instruction in reading and interpreting mechanical drawings and interpreting maintenance publications.

In the News: STEM Initiatives

Tuesday, July 12th, 2011

You may have recently seen or heard news coverage on the urgent need for more skilled workers trained in STEM (science, technology, engineering, math) education. The CNN/ Fortune magazine Web site recently wrote about it and NPR member station WAMU in Washington also weighed in with a report on The Diane Rehm Show.

If the bad news is that there is currently a shortage of STEM-educated workers, the good news is that there are many novel programs — both new and established — to encourage and promote STEM education and to help train and prepare students for the growing science and technology job market. And key to many of these initiatives are partnerships between education and industry.

For example, in 2009, the White House launched the Educate to Innovate campaign to help promote programs to “grow” America’s scientific and technological workforce, with a goal of cultivating as many as 3 million skilled workers by 2018. One component of this campaign is Change the Equation, a nonprofit, non-partisan CEO-led initiative which collaborates with educators and communities across the country to develop programs to inspire students’ interest in science and technology. One of the programs, the Science Career Ladder turns high-school and college-age students into “Explainers” where they work at the New York Hall of Science in Queens, New York, to help guide visitors through the scientific exhibits. Similarly, the Engineering is Elementary program launched by the Museum of Science in Boston provides younger children with curricula in key engineering concepts. Lessons cover subjects from the design of water filters and parachutes to how to clean up an oil spill, introducing sophisticated — and important — engineering concepts to more than 1 million students in kindergarten through fifth grade.

Similar partnerships are leading to new training programs in the manufacturing field. The Department of Energy recently announced a series of new manufacturing job training partnerships (together with the Manufacturing Institute, the Ford Partnership for Advanced Studies and Macomb Community College) to provide students with virtual technician training as well as other interactive materials in a variety of STEM areas.

The Advanced Technological Education (ATE) Program helped pave the way for these successful models. Created in 1992 to improve the productivity of American high-tech industries by “growing” the nation’s work force, the ATE program today has 39 centers around the country providing training for a wide variety of cutting-edge industries, from agriculture to biotechnology, to cyber security and new energy technologies. According to recent findings, in 2010, ATE Centers educated more than 70,000 students, including 60 percent at community colleges. ATE also offered programs at more than 1,250 educational institutions nationwide – 50 percent at two-year colleges. ATE also developed more than 2,300 curriculum materials and served more than 58,000 educators.

One of the keys to ATE success has always been its close working relationships with industry: by understanding employers’ expectations for technicians now and in the future, ATE helps formulate new strategies and develop new programs to ensure that students enter the workforce with the knowledge and skills necessary for success. AgrowKnowledge is a great example. This ATE Center works closely with its Industry Partners Council to identify employers’ needs, define skill requirements and prepare students for careers in precision agriculture, biotechnology, alternative energy production and natural resource management — agricultural fields that have grown increasingly more technical in recent years.

And that’s good news, indeed.

Profile: National Center for Manufacturing Education

Tuesday, May 10th, 2011

This week, we’re focused on ATE’s National Center for Manufacturing Education. NCME is involved in a wide variety of activities designed to improve manufacturing and engineering technology education, as well as to increase the pipeline of skilled workers for the growing numbers of advanced technology jobs that help form the backbone of today’s U.S. economy.

As the NCME notes, the jobs incorporating the diverse technologies required for today’s advanced manufacturing industries are different in many ways from the stereotypical jobs of the past. Today, companies need highly trained and educated new employees to design and make products using advanced, computer-assisted software and automated production systems. As a result, careers in advanced manufacturing provide exciting opportunities for individuals who are interested in designing and improving products, operating high-tech tools and machinery, analyzing problems — and coming up with creative solutions to solve those problems.

So, what, exactly, does an advanced manufacturing career look like? You can see for yourself by checking out NCME’s interactive Web site

This great resource provides important facts and figures about today’s manufacturing industry. (Did you know, for example, that advances in technologies that cut energy use and lead to a cleaner environment are made by more than 70 percent of the private-sector manufacturers? Or that employment in pharmaceutical and medicine manufacturing is expected to add 69,000 new jobs by 2016?) also offers users a full list of the many workplace responsibilities that fall within the field Advanced Manufacturing field (from Automated Manufacturing and Assembly to Biomedical Sciences and Manufacturing, to Nanotechnology, and Computers, Electronics and Telecommunications — to name just a few!)

Here, you’ll also find specific information about the numerous occupations that make up advanced manufacturing. (You’ll learn, for example, that Quality Engineers develop the quality control systems that ensure that each and every product and service sold to consumers is safe and reliable, and that without quality control — and Quality Engineers — stores and businesses might be faced with contaminated food and medicine bottles, faulty electronics or unsafe vehicles.)

Through you’ll meet real people, including Helen Rodriguez, who describes her career as a quality engineer and her work at Norwood Medical in Dayton, Ohio, a company that provides instruments and implants for the surgical fields. Helen tells careerMe: “My position always puts me in contact with people, which I love. The products we make help people; it inspires me to be able to help. So many things go wrong with surgery, and I am able to contribute to making a product that has high quality.”

Finally, through the NCME’s newly launched social networking Web site you can make direct connections with students, companies and mentors in the field of advanced manufacturing. Check it out!

ATETV Episode 25: Technology and Real-Life Applications

Monday, March 8th, 2010

This week, we look at ways that community colleges are working hand-in-hand with industry to create curriculum that will enable students to “hit the ground running” upon graduation.

In our first segment, we visit Stark State College, where a two-year associate’s degree in fuel cell technology incorporates mathematics, chemisty and physics, as well as specialized fuel cell curriculum, as part of an overall mechnical engineering program.

“We are very tight with business, so we listen very closely to their needs,” explains Stark State’s Dennis Trenger. “Our curriculum provides as broad of a picture as we can paint right now, because this field is constantly changing.”

In addition to the two-year degree program, Stark State also offers students the option of a one-year certificate program in fuel cell technology. “Perhaps students have already been out in the field and have some mechanical engineering skills or even electrical engineering skills,” says Dennis. “With this certificate program they could come back and take our fuel cell courses to actually move them in a little different direction in their careers.”

For student Dena Mayhorn, the certificate program is proving to be exactly the right fit for her needs after 20 years of employment with Acura. “I feel that fuel cell technology is going to be used in many areas, including the automotive industry. This program is a great way to get exposed to some of these new technologies.”

As we see in our second segment, Saddleback College’s partnerships with industry are providing students with state-of-the-art education in rapid manufacturing, the field that enables companies to create three-dimensional computer models of real-world objects in advance of product development.

For the industries of today to be globally competitive, they need people with skills that can drive a product to market in a very short period of time. “Many of today’s companies, particularly the Fortune 50s that are involved with our [Rapid Tech program] are interested in bringing their high-end manufacturing design and tooling back from overseas,” says Saddleback’s Ken Patton. “This is going to create high-wage jobs here in the U.S.”

And graduates of Saddleback’s Rapid Manufacturing program — which provides students with the same experiences they will encounter in the work world — will be ready for these opportunities.

“Our students have to come up with a product that they think is manufacturable and sellable,” explains Saddleback’s Ed Tackett. “They have to conduct market research, develop a business plan, do multiple iterations using the different technologies in the lab and then present their report to an industry panel that we invite in at the end of each semester.”

As this week’s episode illustrates, college programs that partner with industry give students the added benefits of real-life applications, providing them with an important edge they enter today’s competitive job market.