Canton Engineering Degree Debuts: Mechatronics Program

CHRISTOPHER LENNEY / NNY BUSINESS
Assistant Professor J. Miles Canino, right, discusses a sensor developed by the Mechatronics program with Mechanical Engineering major Andrew Fitch.

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Schumer seeks launch of manufacturing training at colleges

Community colleges across the state could launch advanced manufacturing programs next year if the federal government awards a $15 million grant to fund the plan.

During a conference call Wednesday, Sen. Charles E. Schumer said he has urged the U.S. Department of Labor to award funding to the ­SUNY community colleges. The funding would enable colleges to launch certified degree programs in the field of mechatronics to serve manufacturers with hiring plans.

A total of 30 institutions partnered to apply for funding, including Jefferson Community College, Watertown, and North Country Community College, Saranac Lake. But while JCC supported the funding application, it wouldn’t launch a program, because no local manufacturers were identified that demand trained employees. NCCC, meanwhile, would launch a program to train employees for jobs at McCadam Cheese Co., Chateaugay, International Paper Co., Ticonderoga, and the Trudeau Institute, Saranac Lake.

Mr. Schumer, D-N.Y., said studies show demand among manufacturers for trained workers will grow in the emerging field of mechatronics, which combines mechanical, electrical, industrial and computer engineering. From 2010 to 2020, SUNY estimated that about 20,000 jobs would be created for workers trained in the field. In the north country, 841 of those jobs will have to be filled by 2020, according to SUNY.

“We need the community college network in upstate New York working to provide people with skills they need to gain employment in these new industries,” Mr. Schumer said. “This program has our community colleges give them the skills so they can fill these jobs.”

Mr. Schumer said mechatronics training programs could be launched at community colleges as early as next spring, if funding is awarded this fall. He said those programs could train about 1,200 workers each year to be employed across the state. Those who complete training, for example, could be hired by manufacturers as maintenance and repair workers, industrial machinery mechanics and technical sales representatives.

Mr. Schumer said community colleges would partner with local manufacturers to develop training programs to meet their demands. Colleges would be awarded program funding based on their enrollment demands.

“The companies will tell colleges what they need, and the colleges will set up programs for them,” Mr. Schumer said, adding that manufacturers often don’t offer in-house training. “Some of the larger companies do it, but for smaller companies it’s harder to do, and this will help them grow and expand.”

A recent SUNY survey of 162 manufacturers found 97.5 percent of respondents said they expect to grow and/or hire workers in the next three to five years, Mr. Schumer said.

Thomas J. Finch, vice president for academic affairs at JCC, said that although the college won’t launch a program, it could do so in the future if manufacturers in need of employees with mechatronics training locate here.

“If one of those manufacturers want to locate near JCC, then we could look at being a more active partner,” he said. “This is a great program for the state, because some of our students don’t stay local and may benefit from it in the future” at a sister institution.

 

By Ted Booker, Times Staff Writer