CLINTON, Tenn. (WVLT) — The first class of students from Roane State Community College will graduate May 6 with their associate’s degrees in mechatronics. This is a relatively new program that until now only offered one-year certificates.
The college and local industry are collaborating to expand the program that combines computer technology with troubleshooting skills for running automation. The degree is designated as Mechatronics: Associate of Applied Science in the college catalog.
Drew Stephens plans to graduate in May with his associate’s degree, but his participation in the class has already landed him a job in his field. Stephens is working as an engineering technician for Coors Tech.
“I got the job because I came here,” explained Stephens about the advantage of his Roane State education. “It doubled my pay from where I was before.”
Nathan Landers is one year into the mechatronics program, planning to eventually to earn his associate’s degree in mechatronics and then his bachelor’s degree in a related field. Landers said the class is a hands-on experience that has prepared him for the industrial world.
“Get your hands on some different equipment that you won’t see in other colleges,” explained Landers. He is currently applying what he learns in a paid internship at SL Tennessee, the largest employer in Clinton.
Landers said he is learning even more on the job during the internship.
Roane State Dean of Mathematics and Sciences Dr. Markus Pomper said the college is working to expand its mechatronics program and to place all of the students who successfully complete the course. The college is responding to the need by local industry for employees with technical skills.
“Our goal for this program is to train employees that are ready to fulfill these needs,” Pomper said.
Several different businesses have donated equipment for the Roane State program to use in its classroom so the education can be as interactive as possible. This includes multiple robotic arms, as well as modestly sized mock-ups of other programmable machinery.
Scott Laska leads the Human Resources department at SL Tennessee, where he said one-third of his 1,100 person workforce needs to use computing and technology skills. The plant manufactures tail lamps, head lamps and gear shifters.
Laska said, “We’re constantly hiring qualified people in the areas that we need. Robotics and automation is one that we constantly need.”
Roane State’s Mechatronics Program Director Gordon Williams shared, “It’s vital to the success of our program and our students to have the workforce connections with the employers in the area.”