Mechatronics Apprenticeship Offers Global Opportunities
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By Janene Erne, OCC Apprentice Coordinator
Once upon a time, we learned by doing. A quality education meant finding an expert to take you under his or her wing. You learned in real time, through trial and error, through practice rather than theory. Apprenticeship training has been around since the Middle Ages and is no less important today. High paying-low skill jobs are being replaced with career opportunities requiring technical skills and a good education. Today’s registered apprenticeships offer the ability to “learn while you earn;” work full time under the guidance of an expert and attend part time classes directly related to your job.
OCC has been involved in apprenticeship training since the college opened in 1965. Although technology has vastly changed since the ‘60s, the hands-on classroom teaching method, featuring state of the art laboratories, has remained consistent. For example, in the machine tool lab, apprentices are taught to understand the basics with manual machines and continue to advanced CNC operations such as contouring and programming while using a variety of speeds and feeds, materials and cutting tools. This method of graduated training is evident in all of OCC’s technical programs: from Intro Robotics to Robotic Controller Maintenance, from DC Fundamentals to Electrical Controls, from Intro Gas/Arc/Mig and Tig welding to Pipe welding and everything in between. Perhaps the major advantage of apprenticeship training at OCC is the ability to customize a curriculum and schedule to meet the specific needs of industry.
As with all manufacturing sectors, employers across the automotive, defense, aerospace, and technology industries are experiencing a shortage of employees with the skills and knowledge necessary to operate and maintain new systems-based technology. These “mechatronic technicians” require a complete new set of skills that cross all content areas. OCC’s new mechatronic program does just that. It provides a core set of basic classes in mechanical, electrical, electronic, hydraulic, math and problem solving as well as additional specialized tracks in automation, fabrication and controls. Furthermore, this college credited program will be offered in an accelerated format so the core can be completed in just 10 months.
With the recent award of a new National Science Foundation grant specifically related to advanced manufacturing and mechatronic training, OCC has partnered with the Michigan Economic Development Corporation and Henry Ford Community College to create the Michigan Advanced Technician Training program (MAT2) www.mitalent.org/mat2 . This innovative, industry-focused approach to mechatronic apprenticeship education will be modeled after the German dual education system. It will offer young adults a financially viable education as well as a career in a global automotive manufacturing company.
The MAT2 program will combine theory, practice and work to train a globally competitive workforce. A working partnership and collaboration with AMTEC (Automotive Manufacturing Technical Education Collaborative) will reinforce a global movement to address the skill gap in all manufacturing sectors. This three-year associate degree MAT2 pilot program is slated to begin in fall 2013 and with its success will expand statewide as early as 2014.
Content provided by Oakland Community College.