By Jennifer Ferrero
According to AMTEC, over the next 10 years, 3.5 million manufacturing jobs will be needed in the United States. New careers are rapidly emerging to support high-tech production. One new area of growth is in Mechatronics.
In today’s manufacturing, cars, airplanes, and other products are built by robots or large format machines. These machines often complete work that is impossible, unsafe, or time-consuming for humans to do. In the automotive industry, using high tech robots in manufacturing started about 10-years ago. In Washington’s aerospace and advanced manufacturing industry, robots are just becoming a reality thanks to an organization called the Automotive Manufacturing Technology Education Collaborative (AMTEC) out of Kentucky.
AMTEC led a workshop hosted by the Center of Excellence for Aerospace and Advanced Manufacturing at Everett Community College in Everett, WA to teach their expertise around “Mechatronics” (a combination of mechanics and electronics to service high tech machinery). And, although their background started in the development of technicians for the auto industry, they have adopted the same skill set and job descriptions within many other industries – such as aerospace.
Manufacturers now are responding to increasing demand in the marketplace to produce cars, airplanes and many other advanced manufactured items.
Who will operate and fix the high-tech machines and robots so that manufacturers don’t lose production time?
AMTEC answered that question and more about the education surrounding Mechatronics and meeting demand through the community and technical college system.
The Nissan Model
Kevin Smith from Nissan said they ramped-up with the AMTEC model in their manufacturing processes to dramatically increase production and support of automotive robots and machines. They went from training people through two-year apprenticeships to fast-track certifications. Technicians who earn these credentials can start as high as $70,000 a year – many of these are students just out of high school.
Without AMTEC, Nissan simply wasn’t meeting production demands. Now, they expect student capacity to increase by more than 400% by 2020.
Areas of manufacturing training for Nissan:
1. Industrial/electrical maintenance (Mechatronics)
2. Machine tool, tool & die
3. Auto mechanics/technology
4. Auto paint and body
Jobs are created through the use of robotics in manufacturing
The machines being used on the manufacturing floor, have increased production and quality assurance, and surprisingly have created jobs. On average, two-four jobs are created per machine according to Mary Kaye Bredeson, Executive
Director of the Center of Excellence for Aerospace and Advanced Manufacturing. In other words, the use of machines is not displacing workers – in most cases, new jobs are created.
Without Mechatronics, several techs are needed to solve every machine problem
Recently, without the Mechatronics discipline, it would often take a handful of specially trained technicians to fix a machine. This can cost the company time and money in delays. With Mechatronics, one technician can engineer, support and maintain the robots and machines.
In practice, those trained in Mechatronics are on-hand to rapidly diagnose and fix the issues on machines. Usually the role is stationed in the Maintenance and Operations department in a manufacturing plant. Generally not a glamorous job, this role has become more technical and scientific than ever before; requiring a new breed of maintenance worker.
AMTEC hired experts to determine best practices and to develop curriculum
The AMTEC organization (funded by a National Science Foundation Grant), hired subject matter experts to sit down with manufacturers to conduct curriculum development sessions, called DACUMS that will allow them to find out processes and roles for conducting work. Through these, expert researchers, like Dr. Katherine Manley, AMTEC was able to create rapid training programs that meet the need of manufacturers in our country.
Community and Technical Colleges and school districts are responding to the need for training
At a Boeing plant (Renton, WA), there has been a recent introduction of large format multi-ton machines built by Electro-Impact to manufacture the wing assemblies. Kay Latimer, Engineering Technology Instructor at Edmonds Community College was in attendance at the event to learn more about the Mechatronics discipline. She said they are looking at adding further courses and certifications for their students to meet the need of the industry.
Other instructors, and thought leaders on the subject of Mechatronics were in attendance as well, including Amazon and Boeing to learn about this technology.
Members of Washington’s manufacturing industry are supportive
Five unique innovations in the Mechatronics industry:
1. Collaboration and strategic alliances (between competing manufacturers to document training needs in advanced manufacturing)
2. Mandatory partnerships between community and technical colleges and their industry partners for identifying standards, developing curriculum and assessment tools and professional development
3. The use of innovative and efficient processes to convene industry and educators
4. The development of a national curriculum and career pathways
5. Standardized assessment models
AMTEC is about skills mastery
The philosophy of AMTEC is unique because grades are not averaged, it is based upon mastery learning. Curriculum is based upon DACUM curriculum sessions which industry folks and educators get together to identify the tasks to do a job and then set it up to align
with courses, modules, and program hours to complete a degree.
AMTEC partner schools can opt in getting a simulator in the training program to teach skills mastery (repair, troubleshoot).
The testing and curriculum developed by AMTEC can be used to test employees in the industry as well as students.
“Competency-based learning is the way forward for our educational systems,” Dr. Katherine Manley said.
Still though, the biggest question remains is how to attract students into the industry?
Dr. Stanley Chase, a former superintendent, who retired and then went to work for AMTEC spoke about career pathways, introducing students to careers and manufacturing and how to make it stick:
Career Pathways – Creating success
- Awareness starts at k-5 (industry needs to go to the elementary school; parent nights)
- Internal and external champions are needed
- Senior leadership at colleges to support concept
- Galvanizing vision for exemplary programs came before the dollars
- Partnerships, employers, schools, colleges, government, have Memorandums of understanding (MOUs)
- Wrap around services – provides career guidance, academic counseling, mentor financial assistance, internships or apprenticeship opportunities for student success.
Big idea – get support from industry, government, and educators to bring the jobs to the students through career fairs – show them, don’t tell them.
According to Dr. Chase, career pathways counselors should be at all high schools and middle schools.
For more about AMTEC, http://www.autoworkforce.org.
Danine Alderete Tomlin, executive director
AMTEC Principal Investigator
Kentucky Community and Technical College System
To become a partner school in Washington:
Mary Kaye Bredeson, executive director
Center of Excellence for Aerospace and Advanced Manufacturing