MIDDLETOWN — The expansion of Alson H. Smith Hall on LFCC’s Middletown Campus will allow Workforce Solutions to expand its high-demand program in advanced manufacturing.
The mechatronics program teaches students — and those already in the workforce and looking to upskill — how to operate and maintain the smart technology used in area manufacturing operations, according to an LFCC news release.
“Through hands-on learning, they will become qualified to work as electromechanical technicians, production technicians and industrial maintenance technicians,” the release states.
Construction of a 3,500-square-foot addition to Smith Hall began in late summer and is expected to be finished by May, with Level 2 Mechatronics classes beginning on site in fall 2022.
“The Middletown Campus is situated in a huge manufacturing corridor, and we cannot satisfy industry’s need for a workforce skilled in advanced manufacturing fast enough,” Workforce Solutions and Continuing Education Vice President Jeanian Clark said. “It’s an equipment-intensive program. To build the full program out to the three levels of certified training our employers deserve, we needed additional space.”
Because mechatronics equipment is very sensitive to dust, temperature, and vibration, Workforce Solutions moved it the Emil & Grace Shihadeh Innovation Center in Winchester to protect it during construction and keep classes running. Winchester Public Schools use the center for health sciences, professional skills and advanced technologies academies. Three labs in the center are dedicated to LFCC classes and feature glass walls.
“When students walk by, they’re seeing this very sophisticated, state-of-the-art equipment which we hope inspires them,” said Clark. “What’s cool about mechatronics class is it’s all the sleek robotics and controls. It’s impressive equipment. We hope that will drive future interest in these students for these great careers with our local industries.”
Level 1 Mechatronics will be taught in the Shihadeh Center through May, she said.
“We are the very first workforce program statewide that has generated enough program revenue to invest in a capital facilities project,” Clark said. “Any of the profits we generated over and above paying the costs of the program, we’ve been able to save so we could reinvest in the programs our regional workforce demands.”
The starting salary for someone who has completed Level 1 Mechatronics is about $40,000. After completing Level 2 mechatronics, a technician can expect to earn $60,000-$70,000, according to Clark. Those earning a Level 3 can expect an annual salary of $70,000-$90,000.
“There is also an opportunity for our mechatronics students to lattice with the credit side of the college to put them on the pathway for an engineering degree,” Clark said.
Even with the work going on at Smith Hall, Workforce Solutions has been able to continue to offer other trades programs in the space, including a four-level electrical program, as well as full HVAC and heavy-equipment operator programs. All of these trades programs, including mechatronics, are eligible for FastForward and G3 funding, making them very affordable for students and employers wishing to enroll their workers.