Mechatronics was the highlight of a Volunteer State Community College event on Tuesday celebrating the Tennessee Labor Education Alignment Program (LEAP). Mechatronics is the blending of engineering fields including mechanical, controls, electronic and computer engineering, to automate manufacturing, distribution and complex services through multiple industries. LEAP is a statewide, comprehensive structure enabling students in Tennessee Colleges of Applied Technology (TCATs) and community colleges to participate in technical training developed with input from area employers. The Mechatronics-2-Jobs LEAP 2.0 Grant Project expands the Vol State Mechatronics Associate of Applied Science (A.A.S) degree program targeting potential students in Macon, Robertson, Sumner, Trousdale, and Wilson counties. The grant helped purchase equipment for the new Mechatronics classes in Gallatin and eventually the Highland Crest Campus in Springfield.
A panel discussion at the event, led by Vol State dean of Math and Science, Tom Ekman, included Tim Altizer, vice president of Operations at Aladdin Temp-Rite; Jimmy Johnston, president and CEO, of Forward Sumner; Curt Johnston, director of Education and Workforce Alignment with the Tennessee Higher Education Commission (THEC); and John Watz, director of the North Tennessee Workforce Board, Inc.
“Mechatronics is a highly valuable career. The pay is great and the benefits are great,” said Altizer. “Without these local programs training people, we’re searching the country to find qualified employees.”
“The LEAP 2.0 funding creates a direct training pipeline of students for advanced manufacturing needs,” said Curt Johnston.
Vol State Mechatronics students had an opportunity to talk with lawmakers and industry representatives at the event. Thirty-three students enrolled in Mechatronics for the fall semester in Gallatin. Night classes were added due to the student demand. A Work-Based Learning Program begins in the spring of 2018 with area businesses. More than twenty regional industries are represented on the Mechatronics Technology Advisory Committees in Gallatin and Cookeville. For more information on a career in Mechatronics visit the web page at www.volstate.edu/mechatronics.
Pictured: The architectural plans for a new Mechatronics lab in a renovated Warf Building were on display. Left to right State Representative William Lamberth; State Representative Kelly Keisling; Vol State President Jerry Faulkner; and Curt Johnston, Education and Workforce Alignment Director with THEC.