Manufacturing today is increasingly more advanced, with more sophisticated equipment and more technical skills needed to operate it.
“It takes a skilled technician to work on equipment,” said Dan Utley, instructor in Hawkeye’s Industrial Automation Technology program. “You can’t just hire someone off the street anymore – you have to have a trained technician to operate it.”
Hawkeye Community College is meeting the increasing demand for these industrial maintenance workers with its Industrial Automation Technology program. Skilled workers are needed in all sectors of manufacturing, from building tractors for John Deere to packaging food for ConAgra. These industries run on advanced machines, and it takes workers with advanced skills to maintain and repair them.
To keep up with industry demands, students utilize state-of-the-art equipment in training, including robots.
“A lot of companies are using robots,” Utley said. “Industrial maintenance workers will do troubleshooting, repairs, and some simple programming.”
The robotic training arms and other training equipment is funded by the IHUM Consortium, a network through Iowa’s community colleges working to build training capacity in information technology, healthcare, utilities, and manufacturing (IHUM). The U.S. Department of Labor awarded the colleges a $15 million grant in 2014 to align programs with industry credentials, build career pathways, and provide students with accurate information about workforce trends and career options.
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Hawkeye Community College is part of the manufacturing sector of the IHUM Consortium. Since the consortium began, the college has aligned the short-term Industrial Maintenance program with the credit Industrial Automation Technology program.
“That makes for an easy transfer for those taking a non-credit course to come and apply what they learned to the credit program,” said Mallory Jensen, director of the IHUM Consortium. In addition to training, IHUM includes building support so students not only stay in the program, but have a clear career path after graduation.
“Every college has advising tools that work with IHUM so students have the connections to be successful,” Jensen said. One tool is Economic Modeling Specialists International (EMSI) Career Coach, a web-based tool to help students explore career options, including workforce trends, training pathways, and salary data. Hawkeye is currently utilizing Career Coach for the Industrial Automation Technology program, as well as Hawkeye’s other career programs.
In the first year of the grant, IHUM impacted 1,869 participants across the state, including 83 in the manufacturing sector. Now in in the second year of implementation, the IHUM Consortium is focused on expanding training opportunities and sharing knowledge across the 15 community colleges.
“This year is about sharing resources,” Jensen said. “There’s a lot of collaboration so we can ensure sectors are sharing information and results that can have an impact on students.”
– Jason Staker
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