Since its start almost two years ago, the Mechatronics program at Enterprise State Community College has grown to meet the needs of not only business and industry but also workers and students.
“Our Mechatronics program offers an opportunity for anyone who wants to get into a high-wage, high-demand career field while simultaneously offering training for those who are already in the field and need to add to their skill set,” Mechatronics instructor Aubri Hanson said. “All of the students who want internships are placed in them, and we have had great feedback from the companies who hire our students as well as the students themselves.”
Housed in Higham Building on the Alabama Aviation College, a unit of Enterprise State Community College, the Mechatronics program includes a variety of paths for individuals to receive skills training in electronics, motors, automation, robotics, and other advanced manufacturing processes.
“Automation is increasing across nearly every industry sector, so there is something for everyone, whether they want to work in manufacturing, medical, agriculture, robotics, or something else,” Hanson said.
These paths include a two-year degree program; four short-term certificates in electronics, mechanics, programming, and advanced manufacturing; and 38 NC3 certification training courses – like Precision Measurement, AC/DC Circuit Fundamentals, Hydraulics, and Pneumatics – that meet national skill standards.
The program’s short-term certificates and certification courses are particularly beneficial to current industry employers and workers.
“An industry-recognized credential benefits the individual by providing proof that they have obtained a skill set,” Hanson said. “All of the certifications offered in Mechatronics require both a lecture/textbook/eLearning component and a hands-on component. Individuals must demonstrate that they have both the knowledge and the skills required for the certification.
“These credentials benefit the industry as well because it gives them a metric for hiring and promoting individuals with the skills and knowledge they need.”
Joe Alexander, who works in Programmable Logic Controllers (PLC) and Automation at Abbeville Fiber, completed the program’s two PLC certifications after learning about the program from other industry workers.
Alexander said the courses “helped me learn to go from more troubleshooting PLC programs to actually write my own PLC programs,” and he said the certifications offered through the Mechatronics program can make employees “more valuable to the company.”
Alexander also said he would recommend the ESCC Mechatronics program to any industry workers who are looking to add to their current skill sets.
“The biggest reason is the instructor we have here,” he said. “She is an excellent instructor, and she pushes you to do more and think more outside the box.”
Currently, Hanson works with several industry sectors to provide certification training, such as automation, maintenance, aerospace and machining.
“We try to accommodate industry of all sizes,” she said. “We offer the certification training to any company that needs to improve or refresh the skills of their employees. It may be 50 employees or 1 employee.
“Businesses interested in training for their employees should contact [ESCC’s Director of Workforce and Adult Education] Leigh Shiver or myself. Those agreements are typically based on the number of employees who need training and may be done at our facility, the company’s facility, or a combination of both. Depending on how much training is needed, a class may be as short as one day or may last several weeks. Again, everything can be flexibly scheduled.”
For individual workers who would like to complete a short-term certificate or certification training, Hanson said to contact her to discuss options.
“We have both credit and non-credit certifications available,” she said. “Classes are typically offered in a hybrid format using a combination of online learning and hands-on labs. The student only needs to come to campus for the labs, which can be scheduled at a time convenient for the student.”
Hanson said she is already planning for ways to expand the Mechatronics program by adding more certification courses for industries and workers, additional dual enrollment opportunities for high school students, and transfer opportunities for degree-seeking students.
“We are constantly adding more certifications and looking to expand our offerings where we see needs in our local industry,” she said. “We will continue to add new equipment and types of training to our repertoire, and we hope for continued growth in our enrollment.
Hanson said she also hopes to increase transfer options for Mechatronics students. In 2020, ESCC and the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga signed a transfer agreement where a student can take 67 credits at ESCC for their associate degree and then take 62 credits at UTC to earn their bachelor’s degree in Mechatronics. She said the College is also hoping to expand its dual enrollment offerings to include more local high schools.
“My goal from the outset of starting the Mechatronics program at Enterprise State has been to provide high-quality training and education in a field that is in desperate need of employees and to do it in a flexible fashion that would accommodate both the traditional college student and the working learner,” she said. “While we are still refining and improving our model every semester, I would say that we are off to a fantastic start.”
Cutline: Joe Alexander takes advantage of ESCC’s Mechatronics program to advance his skills in Programmable Logic Controllers for his current career.