Manufacturing is one of Alamance County’s major employers, according to Scott Doron, Grants Officer at Alamance Community College. With the automation of manufacturing, the skills needed for these jobs are highly technical and require training on complex equipment. Golden LEAF has helped secure the equipment needed to train the advanced manufacturing workforce in Alamance County through two awards.
In February 2016, the Golden LEAF Board of Directors awarded Alamance Community College $199,097.07 to purchase an automation training system to offer hands-on training in the field of mechatronics. A survey of advanced manufacturing companies in Alamance County showed there would be 200 positions over the next five years requiring the targeted skill sets of the mechatronics program. Golden LEAF funding was used to purchase and install training equipment and support instructor training.
“From the standpoint of jobs for students in mechatronics, we have more demand for our students than we can supply,” said Roland Roberts, Head of the Mechatronics Department at Alamance Community College. “We get requests from companies for graduates or near graduates on a regular basis. We get requests from a number of smaller companies as well as big ones that include ABB, ITG Brands, American Foods, Honda, Shawmut, and others.”
Positions related to the area of mechatronics provide a living wage and a good working environment. Roberts said starting wages are typically in the $23 per hour range, and can be a bit higher or lower depending upon the size of the company and the position.
“For the most part, you will find that the manufacturing environment is a clean, comfortable environment,” said Roberts. “This is due to the vast amounts of automation that are now in place.”
From spring 2016 to spring 2017, more than 800 incumbent workers were trained. Alamance Community College reported 18 graduates of programs with 35 certificates earned and 11 participants reported being hired in the field. There were 15 participants in an apprenticeship program.
In December 2019, the Golden LEAF Board awarded $197,391.37 to Alamance Community College to purchase specialized advanced manufacturing equipment that will allow the college to offer hands-on machining training that mimics workplace conditions. In new and existing courses, which were requested by local employers, students will be taught the operation, troubleshooting, programming, and other principles of computer-integrated machining processes. A survey of ten major manufacturing businesses with machining-related processes in Alamance County indicated the need to fill approximately 200 computer-integrated machining positions in the next three to five years. Over one semester, students have earned 18 credentials, two certificates and four have participated in work-based learning experiences.
“Both of these awards give our students training on state-of-the-art technology-oriented equipment that our companies are already using,” said Doron. “If we did not have Golden LEAF funding, we would be training our students for manufacturing jobs on outdated technology. Golden LEAF allows us to keep up with the rapidly changing and highly technical manufacturing equipment that our manufacturers use. Golden LEAF provides a niche funding that rural areas cannot get anywhere else.”