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Department of Labor Lauds QCC Mechatronics and Manufacturing Curricula

January, 2017
  • Student in manufacturing lab
  • Student in manufacturing lab
  • Students in manufacturing lab

The U.S. Department of Labor recently recognized Quinsigamond Community College for the curricula created for mechatronics and manufacturing certificates and degrees.

The department recognized the college for creating curricula that is stackable and competency-based. The department said the curricula:

  • Responds to the identified skill need of manufacturing employers.
  • Uses a competency-based approach to develop curricula.
  • Prepares student to acquire credentials approved by the manufacturing industry.

“Massachusetts employers need skilled workers to fill their job openings in many technical fields, including advanced manufacturing and mechatronics occupations. Students and incumbent workers need to acquire employer-recognized competencies, as well as postsecondary credentials to meet this demand,” stated a press release from the U.S. Department of Labor. “Quinsigamond Community College has developed an innovative approach to address these complementary needs. The college has embedded preparation for critical industry credentials within many of their technical degree and certificate programs, such as manufacturing technology and electronics engineering technology/mechatronics curricula. Students emerge with both a degree or certificate and one or more industry-recognized credentials upon successful completion of their coursework.”

From a national perspective, the outlook for manufacturing-related occupations is strong, particularly as workers obtain industry-recognized credentials. National employment projections from the Bureau of Labor Statistics indicate that employment opportunities for machinists will rise by 9.8 percent between 2014 and 2024, greater than the average 6.5 percent increase for all occupations. The data also indicate that employment opportunities for computer-controlled machine tool operators will increase by 17.5 percent from 2014 to 2024, significantly more than the national average for all occupations.

“Our faculty works closely with employer advisory committees, affinity groups at other community colleges, as well as statewide industry groups like the MA Manufacturing Extension Partnership to develop curricula that are competency-based and industry credential focused,” said Kathy Rentsch, Dean of the School of Business, Engineering and Technology at QCC. “We started focusing on a tiered competency-based approach back in 2013, when we worked with the Manufacturing Advancement Center Workforce Innovation Collaborative (MACWIC) in the development of the Applied Manufacturing Technology Certification model. QCC now serves as the chief education partner for MACWIC.”

“Our current manufacturing curriculum takes the competency-tiered approach to the next level,” said Damian Kieran, Associate Professor of Manufacturing Technology at QCC. “Industry-recognized credentials are embedded in competency-based manufacturing curricula.”

Students can start with courses about manufacturing safety, LEAN certification courses, and then continue to advance with courses with CAD/CAM training, career prep, and applied manufacturing technology. These courses prepare students for different levels, whether it is entry level, middle skills for machine operators, machinists and supervisors, up to continuing management skills with an associate’s degree in manufacturing technology. Students also can choose to continue their education and earn a bachelor’s degree at a four-year college, all while working in the industry.

“The U.S. Department of Labor, Employment and Training Administration’s Mechatronics Competency Model is the foundation for our curriculum,” said Jim Heffernan, Professor of Electronics Engineering Technology at QCC. “We offer one industry-recognized credential in our curricula, FANUC’s Certified Education Robot Training. It has been our observation that most of the national industry-recognized credentials are on the production and process side of manufacturing. We would like to offer more mechatronics-specific certifications that are relevant to our local labor market. QCC undertook a survey of local job opportunities for mechatronics technicians. One result is the development of a local certification based on the inclusion of a subset of the skills in certain of our electronics courses required for a national certification in hand soldering from the IPC--Association Connecting Electronics Industries.”

“QCC was one of the first seven Massachusetts community colleges to begin implementing the ‘Complete College America’s Guided Pathways to Success’ model to successfully achieve the goal of having more students complete their programs of study as well as reduce the time to completion for a degree or certificate,” said Carol King, Director of College and Career Pathways, QCC.

“The reduction in time gets students out into the workforce sooner. Regional partners work with us to provide students with the work experience and job openings necessary to begin successful careers once they successfully complete coursework and attain industry-recognized credentials,” Dean Rentsch said. “We have already embedded industry credentials in a number of QCC technical programs of study, including automotive technology, HVAC, energy technology utility and more. We plan to continue our focus on developing competency-based curricula for other disciplines as well.”