UNION — The close relationship between manufacturers and the educational system will continue and deepen in 2013 when a new mechatronics course is offered through the partnership between the Union County Advanced Technology Center and the Union County School District’s Career and Technology Center.
Mechatronics is an interdisciplinary field involving control systems, electronic systems, computers and mechanical systems that integrate product design and automated manufacturing processes.
It provides students with the variety of skills required to work as technicians in an increasingly complex industrial workplace. The curriculum teaches students a comprehensive approach to developing solutions for work-specific applications.
A brochure published by Spartanburg Community College states that “businesses and industries need graduates with mechatronics training and problem-solving abilities.”
It further states that “mechatronics technicians are involved in robotics, automated manufacturing and packaging, automobiles, airplanes, gas pumps, vending, gaming, ATM machines, heating and cooling systems, renewable energy systems and more.”
The Advanced Technology Center is administered by Spartanburg Community College in cooperation with USC Union and Site Director Kathy Jo Lancaster said that many of the courses offered by the center are geared toward supporting Union County’s growing manufacturing sector by providing students with skills needed to work in that sector including mechatronics.
“Manufacturing is a large and important sector of Union County’s economy and is projected to continue to provide strong employment opportunities,” Lancaster said. “Today’s manufacturing plants are highly technical and requires a highly skilled employee to run its processes. As a result, we must provide educational training to prepare our students to successfully compete in these highly technical fields. Local companies such as Gestamp, Timken, ESAB and Haemonetics rely on the Advanced Technology Center to offer industry-recognized credentials that creates a pathway linking education to industry and connecting qualified workers to jobs.”
Registration will be held from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Jan. 3 for the spring 2013 semester at the center which will begin Jan. 9.
The semester’s course offerings will include the Mechatronics certification program which Lancaster said will provide students who successfully complete it with the ability to “perform routine maintenance, diagnostics, repairs and installations in a manufacturing environment.”
Even as Mechatronics is being offered at the center itself, Lancaster said preparations are being made to offer an introductory Mechatronics course at the Career and Technology Center beginning in the fall. Lancaster said the course will be dual credit like others offered through the partnership between the Advanced Technology Center and the Career and Technology Center.
In addition to Mechatronics and the planned introductory Mechatronics course, Lancaster said the center will offer a number of other manufacturing-oriented courses in 2013.
“We did offer some entry level classes in the fall such as industrial safety, print reading, and industrial computer techniques,” Lancaster said. “We’ll offer those in the spring and in addition we’ll also offer hand tool operations which also provides an opportunity for national certification with NCCER (National Center for Construction Education and Research).”
Lancaster said the courses taught at the center have resulted in some of the students who graduate undergoing apprenticeships at Gestamp and she hopes a similiar relationship will develop between the center and Gonvauto once it begins operations.
She said the educational infrastructure that produces graduates who can work in the high-tech facilities of companies like Gestamp, Gonvauto, Timken, ESAB and Haemonetics is not only important to the companies but also to the ability of Union County to benefit from the growth of manufacturing in South Carolina.
“Manufacturing is growing,” Lancaster said. “A study by the South Carolina Department of Commerce shows that in 2011 manufacturing employed over 215,000 people or 10 percent of our state’s workforce. It also showed that manufacturing added nearly 10,000 jobs in 2011. The study also showed that 16.4 percent of South Carolina’s economic output was from manufacturing in 2010 compared to 11.8 percent for the entire United States.
“South Carolina had a 4.3 percent increase in manufacturing employment between 2009 and 2011 while Alabama, Georgia, North Carolina and Tennessee all experienced decreases,” she said. “We’re leading the southeast in manufacturing growth and the industries we’ve attracted like Gestamp, Gonvauto and ESAB are part of that growth.”
To continue to share in that growth, however, Lancaster said Union County must continue to provide the education and training manufacturers look for in a community.
“You cannot recruit businesses if you do not have that educational component,” Lancaster said. “One of the first questions they ask is what do you have to offer in education, including the public school system and higher education. They don’t want to send their children to school out of the county. They want trained workers and they don’t want to send them out of the county get job training.”
The Union County Advanced Technology Center is currently closed for Christmas break and will reopen at 8 a.m. Jan. 3. For more information contact the center at 466-1060.
Editor Charles Warner can be reached at 864-427-1234, ext. 14, or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.