Building a Model for the Nation: The emerging field of mechatronics

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During his visit to the Mechatronics lab at CCAC’s West Hills Center in April 2014, President Obama proclaimed the college’s Mechatronics Technology program “a model for the nation,” calling it the kind of program that should be available across the country to train students for the high-tech manufacturing sector.

The president’s comments were not surprising to those familiar with CCAC’s program, which has seen remarkable success. Mechatronics graduates actively seeking employment have had no difficulty finding good jobs in numerous industries, including energy, manufacturing and supply chain and logistics.

The emerging technology of mechatronics integrates mechanical and electronic components with hydraulics, pneumatics, electronics and computer controls in the manufacture of industrial products and processes. Skilled workers are in high demand due to the emergence of these increasingly sophisticated and complex manufacturing operations.

CCAC offers its Mechatronics Technology program in both associate degree and certificate options. Individuals who pursue a degree benefit from a technical core set of courses that combine industry-recognized certification and quality college education. Students may specialize in one of these program tracks: robotics and automation; instrumentation and process controls; or supply chain technology.

CCAC graduates are routinely finding employment upon completion, frequently from industry recruiters who come looking for them. “We have had a tremendous response from companies in the area,” said Paul Blackford, Mechatronics lead instructor. “When employers see how much our program relates to what they’re doing, they realize this is their opportunity to hire skilled people.”

“We’re constantly adding new technology so our students will be prepared for the jobs of the future.”
—Paul Blackford, lead instructor, CCAC Mechatronics program

Companies also send current employees to CCAC to increase their skills through mechatronics training. Many students find jobs and leave the program after completing the first level of the three-level program, then return for more training at their company’s expense.

Much of the learning is hands-on, and students in the robotics track learn how to program the center’s two FANUC robots that are used in about 75 percent of manufacturing companies in the U.S. The program also boasts a futuristic “NAO” humanoid robot, which can be programmed to walk and talk, even dance.

“We’re constantly adding new technology so our students will be prepared for the jobs of the future,” said Blackford.

Although the quality of a CCAC education is high, the cost is relatively low, and graduates who pass the Manufacturing Skill Standards Council Certified Production Technician test leave with a nationally recognized certification.

According to Blackford, “When our students take the test, they pass. We work to ensure our graduates have the knowledge and skills they need for a great career in this industry.”


Student Success Story
Mechatronics graduate finds success & satisfaction in new career

John Neal was not satisfied with his job as a quality technician at a re-manufacturing company. He knew he had more potential, but he lacked the skills to advance in his career, and he was unsure where to go to get the skills he wanted.

Then a friend showed him a flyer about the Mechatronics Technology program at CCAC’s West Hills Center. The industry-driven learning opportunities available through the program interested him, so he decided to give it a try. He couldn’t be happier about making that move.

John Neal

John Neal

“I loved every minute of it,” said Neal. “The program gives you the opportunity to do hands-on work, which I really enjoy.”
The training Neal received gave him the skills he needed to move forward in his career. Among other skills, he learned how to design, build and troubleshoot hydraulic systems and PLCs (programmable logic controllers).

“Everything I learned at CCAC helped me to really understand hydraulics, which gave me a huge leg up. I felt well prepared when I completed the program.”

Shortly after Neal received his Mechatronics certificate, he was hired by Schroeder Industries, a hydraulic filtration company. He has already received his second promotion, rising to a general utilities position.

“I just love the fact that I look forward to going to work,” remarked Neal. “Without CCAC, I wouldn’t have the knowledge and the skills I do now. All of my instructors were great; they were right there to assist me. I would definitely recommend CCAC to anyone who is looking to obtain additional education for a better job.”

Neal’s employer is also very pleased with how the program has advanced the skills of the company’s workers, including several current employees they sent to CCAC for additional training.

“Schroeder Industries is thrilled with the quality of employees the Mechatronics Technology program at CCAC produces,” said Gus Schroeder, president of Schroeder Industries. “The graduates have greatly enhanced practical and technical skills that help them thrive in the industry. John and the CCAC Mechatronics Technology program are truly assets to Schroeder Industries.”

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