College and Career Center to add robotics and automated manufacturing program

Published 6:41 pm Wednesday, March 19, 2014


COLUMBIANA – Students interested in pursuing a career in robotics and automated manufacturing will soon have that opportunity in Shelby County.

The school district is utilizing a $500,000 grant to implement a Robotics and Automated Manufacturing program, known as R.A.M., at the College and Career Center in Columbiana.

Rene’ Day, coordinator for career and technical education, college and career planning, and community partnerships, said the money for the grant was made possible thanks to a state bond issue passed by the Alabama Legislature.

“We wrote an Innovative Program Grant to fund this program. The grant will purchase all equipment needed, including an automated manufacturing line like students would encounter in industry,” Day said. ”These programs can be extremely expensive so we are very grateful that the Alabama Legislature saw Career and Technical education’s important role in workforce development and approved a $50 million bond issue last year.” said Day.

“We are also pleased to have our post-secondary partners like Lawson State work so closely with us to provide our students a chance to earn industry credentials and progress in their training after high school,” Day continued. ”Nancy Wilson at Lawson State has been invaluable in her assistance to us as we put the program plan together. Not only have they assisted us in planning, but have committed to provide a part-time instructor at no cost to the system. Students will receive dual-enrollment credit and will advance toward a work certificate issued by the college. That is real commitment! For our students, this is a win-win situation!”

Day said the program will prepare students to work in the field of industrial maintenance and automated manufacturing, which will prove useful for jobs available at some of Alabama’s top manufacturing employers like Mercedes, Honda, and Hyundai. Day said the students’ training will include the skills needed to keep the robotics used to operate manufacturing production lines operational.

“In the field of automated manufacturing, when those robots go down, there has to be people who are highly skilled that can get those production lines back up,” Day said. ”That is what this program will train our students to do.”

Day said there is a huge need for this type of worker in industry right now, with jobs currently going unfilled due to a lack of a trained workforce.

“In 2012, 600,000 jobs in high-tech manufacturing companies went unfilled. The shortage of skilled workers to fill these jobs is at a crisis point. That is why the new Robotics and Automated Manufacturing program is so important, ” Day said. “We need to show the younger generation that manufacturing isn’t necessarily what they think it is – today it is a high-tech, fast-moving world that often includes state-of-the-art automated machinery and robots. Computers are as important on the manufacturing floor as they are in the office building, but the people with the skills needed to program automated manufacturing lines are hard to find.”

The course will be open to students in grades 10th through 12th, beginning with the fall semester of the upcoming 2014-2015 school year. Students will be able to get a head start on a two-year degree by taking the program. Students will also earn manufacturing credentials that will certify them with these specific work skills. The students will learn to build and program robots, how to program automated manufacturing lines, and simple computer programming.

“We are looking for a very specific type of student who we feel will excel in this type of class,” Day said. “Specifically we are looking for students who love to work with computers and in the field of robotics.”

Students interested in enrolling in the program can contact Patti Fant at the College and Career Center at 682-6650 or Day at 682-5254.