Laurel Ridge Community College Workforce Solutions’ in-demand mechatronics program on the Middletown Campus is being expanded with the help of $800,000 in grant funding.
The grant was awarded in August by GO Virginia, an initiative led by business leaders around the state designed to create private-sector growth and new jobs. The program is based on collaboration among industry, education partners and municipalities.
Laurel Ridge Community College has partnered with the city of Winchester, Frederick County and Shenandoah County on the project to expand mechatronics programming. GO Virginia awarded $530,000 on the condition that Workforce Solutions provides about $270,000 in matching funds.
A study from January 2022 revealed more than 3,000 unfilled manufacturing positions in the region, costing the Shenandoah Valley $1.4 billion in economic output.
Workforce Solutions began building the mechatronics Level 1 pathway in 2019. Students who complete Level 1 earn seven certifications through five classes, and are well-rounded technicians able to efficiently operate manufacturing equipment. With their level of training, they are able to ensure that the systems are running at maximum capacity, and can identify malfunctions and make minor repairs.
The grant funding is being used to expand the mechatronics program to include Level 2. Equipment is being purchased this fall, with classes expected to begin in early 2023 in Alson H. Smith Hall, which has been expanded to make room for the program extension.
Expanding the program will build a strong workforce pipeline to meet the needs of manufacturers in the materials, parts, machinery, food and pharmaceutical industries. Students will graduate with flexible and stackable industry-approved credentialing and degree opportunities. The programming is geared to current employees looking to upskill, as well as unemployed and under-employed individuals.
“The partnership of innovation and technology makes this a transformative proposal for the region,” said Jeanian Clark, vice president of Workforce Solutions and Continuing Education at Laurel Ridge. “By cost-sharing the investment for equipment with GO Virginia, we can support our employers by more quickly bringing additional courses and certifications to market.”
The mechatronics training is designed to allow students to stack credentials horizontally or vertically. Horizontal stacking allows students to train across a variety of topics to become well-rounded technicians. Vertical stacking provides a more concentrated focus on a specialized topic, moving through both levels to complete credentials and degrees.
Students who become certified in Level 2 mechatronics are prepared to work as both operator and production technicians able to assess and analyze systems. They can manage, investigate, repair and troubleshoot industry 4.0 systems to maximize operations and process control. This level prepares students to work as electromechanical technicians, mechatronics technicians, automation technicians, robotics technicians and applications engineers.
Laurel Ridge Workforce Solutions is able to offer the mechatronics programming in a variety of formats – traditionally scheduled, bootcamp style fast-track training, customized worksite training and apprenticeship training. Learn more at laurelridgeworkforce.com/mechatronics.