Industries ranging from manufacturing to health care are in great need of workers with automation and systems technology skills. Mechatronics is the engineering behind those systems. A new state of Tennessee Labor Education Alignment Program (LEAP) 2.0 grant provides $811,000 for Volunteer State Community College to build electronic, hydraulic and pneumatic labs, and to train instructors in Siemens certification for mechatronics. Vol State is partnering with Workforce Essentials in the project called Mechatronics-2-Jobs. “Mechatronics directly links the skilled workforce required to maintain and program equipment to the manufacturing sector, which is exploding throughout the region,” said John Watz, vice president for Strategic Planning and Development at Workforce Essentials. “Workforce Essentials and the North Tennessee Workforce Board has their whole support behind this program.” “We have been in discussions with business and industry for more than a year about the need for this program and how to get it started at Vol State. We are so pleased that we received the grant, which will allow us to move quickly to establish a Mechatronics program at Vol State in Gallatin. “Persons with training and skills in this area are in high demand,” said Vol State president, Jerry Faulkner. “Graduates will easily find good paying positions in this high skill area. At Vol State we are dedicated to meeting the educational and training needs of our service area.” Vol State will launch an associate of applied science (AAS) mechatronics degree program on the Gallatin campus in the fall of 2017. It will provide the training and certification education students need for entry level jobs as mechanical engineering technicians, electrical engineering technicians and industrial engineering technicians, just to name a few. Graduates will have skills in the installation, maintenance and repair and of mechanical controls, fluid power systems, electrical equipment and electronic equipment. Vol State already utilizes labs and classes for mechatronics classes at the Cookeville Higher Education Campus (CHEC). The LEAP grant will add labs to the Gallatin campus and equipment at Highland Crest in Springfield. The bureau of Labor Statistics says the national median salary for mechanical engineering technicians is $53,910. Job growth is projected at 5 percent in coming years. It is even higher in Tennessee. The grant project partners with several area manufacturers for internships and job entry programs. And once in the workplace, students can continue their education for a bachelor of science degree through a partnership with Austin Peay State University. It’s designed specifically for working students. The LEAP program supports Governor Haslam’s Drive to 55 campaign. It seeks to increase the percentage of Tennesseans with a postsecondary degree or credential to 55 percent by 2025. The LEAP grants go to community and academic partnerships that align workforce needs with higher education. For more information about Mechatronics at Vol State visit www.volstate.edu/mechatronics Pictured: The Mechatronics Lab at the Cookeville Higher Education Campus provides hands-on robotics and automation equipment training for Vol State classes there.