Special to SoVA CME
The SoVA Center of Manufacturing Excellence recently welcomed its second group of eight students into the industrial maintenance/mechatronics program.
The hands on training at Southern Virginia Higher Education Center (SVHEC) prepares students for a career in many industries including mechanical, electrical, computer software/control engineering (PLCs) to design and manufacture products. Students will come away from the training ready to earn valuable industry credentials such as Siemens Level 1 Certification. Students can then go on to earn Siemens level 2 certification, and SVHEC is working with Siemens to create the only North American location for Siemens level 3 training and certification.
The training takes place over 26 weeks, and students who complete the training are certified as “smart operators” which will allow them to work in any industry with any equipment. In fact, recent graduates have found careers as machine operators, technicians and apprentice electricians.
Dr. Betty Adams, executive director of the Southern Virginia Higher Education Center, said, “Thanks to the TRRC’s investment in SoVA CME, the SVHEC is positioned to offer Southside workers the training necessary to succeed in automated smart factory environments. The 2016 State of the Commonwealth Report predicts that almost 74 percent of Virginia’s production occupations – which includes Southern Virginia’s largest labor market sector, manufacturing – may be at risk to automation. The most vulnerable jobs involve repetitive, routine tasks that require little reasoning, judgment or creative abilities. These jobs are being replaced by equipment designed to function as complex systems, now often referred to as mechatronic systems.
“Mechatronics Levels 1-3 Certifications prepare workers to operate, maintain and design and build the complex robotic systems that are quickly becoming the foundation of all manufacturing.”
Alicia White, a current student in the program added, “I chose this program because it was the only one in the region that offered Siemens certification. I also like that the training is hands on.”
The Tobacco Region Revitalization Commission was instrumental to the creation of the Southern Virginia Center for Manufacturing Excellence.
A 2012 report ordered by the Tobacco Commission along with the Commonwealth Center for Advanced Manufacturing pointed toward the need for additional industry certified workers due to an expected increase in manufacturing sector jobs in Southern Virginia.
In 2014 the Tobacco Commission awarded SVHEC a $2 million education grant to set up and operate the Southern Virginia Center for Manufacturing Excellence. Since that time, the tobacco commission has supported the center with an additional $2 million grant in 2015.
Del. James Edmunds, a tobacco commission member, said, “In order for Southern Virginia to compete globally, we have got to train our workforce for the future. This industrial maintenance/mechatronics program is a primary driver is making this a reality. I am proud to have been a part of making this dream a reality through my support on the tobacco commission.”
The tobacco commission is proud to support this project designed to address the regional skills gap present in Southern Virginia. In order to develop a diverse economy in the region and attract new businesses it is vital that a well-trained workforce exist able to fill jobs in the manufacturing and industrial maintenance sector as they become available. This program will help fill those jobs and ensure that Southern Virginia is ready to seize opportunities as they arise.