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SCC Industrial Maintenance Technician Graduate featured in Community College Journal


The impact of ATE Centers

By Madeline Patton

Laura Shanahan IMT GraduateThe National Science Foundations Advanced Technological Education (ATE) program gives two year college educators leadership roles in developing model technician education programs for advanced technology fields. Since the first ATE grants were awarded in 1993, community college educators across the nation have partnered with industry and other education sectors to create innovative curricula, effective recruitment and student support strategies, and authentic workplace experiences to launch students on successful career paths.

Not until she was laid off from a textile mill did Laura Shanahan hear the term industrial maintenance technician. When a case manager told her that starting wages for the technicians who maintain and repair manufacturers robots ranged from $13 to $16 per hour, Shanahan set her sights on that career.

Within weeks of completing an associate degree in industrial maintenance technology from Kentuckys Somerset Community College in May 2016, Shanahan, 23, began work at Toyotetsu America (TTAI). I honestly just like everything. I like seeing how stuff works. I like being able to fix it when its not working, she says.

Shanahans petite size, gender and youth have not been an issue among her older, mostly male co-workers at TTAI. What matters to them is that she can do the job. And Shanahan says, School gave me a really good foundation to work with, starting from not knowing anything.

TTAI is one of the automakers in Tennessee, Kentucky, Ohio, Indiana and Texas whose staffs provide information that the Automotive Manufacturing Technical Education Collaborative (AMTEC) uses to fine tune its online modules, certification and diagnostic assessments, and virtual simulations to prepare multi-skilled, mechatronics technicians.

Somerset Community College uses AMTECs online modules to reinforce concepts. I have students who struggle greatly improve with the help of the modules, reports Butch Tincher, assistant professor of industrial maintenance technology at Somerset.

For Daniel Meara and Justin Jensen, who earned associate of applied science degrees in electronics engineering technology from Floridas Indian River State College (IRSC) in 2009 and 2010, respectively, landing jobs immediately after completing the 21-month Robotics and Photonics Institute was super. Even better has been their ability to advance in their careers based on their photonics skills and knowledge. 

Meara, 46, is in the second year of his dream job as a field services engineer for Varian Medical Systems. Before enrolling at IRSC at age 38, he made a good living as an auto mechanic, but hated the work. When he enrolled with other full-time students in the institute, its cohort model was an ATE pilot project. It is now one of the curriculum innovations the Southeast Regional Center for Laser and Fiber Optics Education (LASER-TEC) is replicating.

Today Meara proudly describes maintaining the machines that deliver radiation treatments to cancer patients. If you go into a hospital, it is the most complicated pieces of equipment, he says, adding his daily work really ties together everything we learned in college.

Justin Jensen, 27, enrolled in IRSC right out of high school, planning to transfer to a four year engineering program. After seeing a laser demonstration on campus, I really got hooked on light. His unpaid internship at MicroWatt Applications led to the start-up hiring him as process manager.

A year later when he enrolled at Florida State Universitys chemical engineering program, Jensens photonics skills qualified him to grow and optimize optical crystals as a part-time lab technician at the National High Magnetic Field Laboratory. Now a project engineer at Laser Components, he develops and maintains commercial pyroelectric detectors.
IRSC was fundamental in my knowledge base and learning experience in what I do today, Jensen says.

360, the Manufacturing and Applied Engineering ATE Regional Center of Excellence, works with 13 partner colleges in Minnesota to inform K-12 students about modern manufacturing. In addition to explaining the options illustrated in the 360 Career Pathway at public forums, 360-affiliated educators find it useful to invest time reaching out to overlooked teen populations.
360 Director Jeremy Leffelman's recruitment for the eTECH dual enrollment program involves visits with students, staff, and parents at charter schools, county high schools, and a public school on an Indian Reservation. This fall, five of the 21 eTECH students are Native American.

Paula Hoffman, dean of students at Pine Technical and Community College, finds that VEX robotics team activities bring out the creativity, tenacity, and problem-solving talents of alternative high school students. Pine Tech sponsors VEX teams with two alternative high schools. 360 has seeded 100 VEX teams with all types of schools throughout Minnesota.
Hannah Anderson is one of the VEX team members matriculating to college. Thanks to her three years on Pine Techs VEX team, Anderson started her senior year this fall enrolled in a manufacturing course at Pine Tech.
I really like robotics and I want to stick with it, Anderson says. She and a Pine Tech advisor have mapped out a plan for her to earn an associate degree and join the National Guard.

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