A Mechatronics degree can be a passport to a bright career for transitioning service members, and that was the message at the Mechatronics for Military Info Session and Lab Tour hosted by Clover Park Technical College’s Mechatronics program March 10.
Transitioning members leaving or retiring from the U.S. Armed Forces typically undergo briefings, attend employment network workshops, get trained on interview strategies and techniques as well as resume writing, and formulate their transition plans with a counselor. Recognizing this, CPTC’s Connecting Competencies to Employers (C2E) team designed the event to introduce the Fundamental Skills for Manufacturing and Engineering (FSME) and Mechatronics programs. In these programs, service members utilize skills they have already trained for while in the service and apply them to several in-demand and well-paying jobs in manufacturing.
Employers from Amazon, GlobalTech Plastics and Pacific Machine, Inc., provided insights on their hiring processes and mechatronics graduates’ career paths in their organizations. Pacific Machine currently employs a CPTC alum as a designer.
“Through mechatronics, you can advance in your area of interest,” said Jim Tschimperle, president and owner of Pacific Machine, Inc. “CPTC’s classrooms are well set up. Their pneumatics, welding and HVAC, among others, amply prepares the students for what’s out there. In our company, we see our employees as long-term investments. We train you. We cross-train you.”
One service member inquired about the employment possibilities of someone with an AAS degree in mechatronics. Ron Dean, Business Development Manager for GlobalTech Plastics, emphasized that “with a degree, you’re beyond a technician position.”
Amazon, which has automated many operations, still needs qualified staff for 95 percent of its operations, according to Juan Garcia, Amazon’s Global Director for Associate Career Development.
“We cannot hire enough people!” Garcia said. The company runs several programs to maximize employee engagement, as well as a program that hires veterans and their spouses.
After meeting the employers, the service members were given a 30-minute “mecha-challenge” by FSME instructor Thomas Chesnes. The prospective students were divided into groups and challenged to form a very basic vacuum sealed area by substituting a block of wood for a composite part. They adhered vacuum sealant tape to a call plate then held the sealant tape to a bagging film. When this was complete, they turned on the vacuum pump to achieve a sealed project. This short exercise – vacuum bagging procedures for composites – provided the service members a glimpse of a typical day in an FSME class.
Afterward, they visited the mechatronics classroom and lab where mechatronics instructor Feng Yang showed them how to operate and troubleshoot the HAS-200, a training platform for manufacturing automation.
The day’s activities ended with a short talk from CPTC WorkFirst/Worker Retraining advisor Jenn Weinmann and CPTC VA certifying specialist Glenda Epps. Weinmann explained the VIE 25 programs, where exiting service members may qualify for full funding for short-term programs at local colleges, and Epps highlighted the educational VA benefits for veterans.
“With the thousands of transitioning service members leaving JBLM annually, this event will be the cornerstone of our outreach that exposes our soon-to-be veterans to the mechatronics career and technical training, thereby strategically positioning them where the manufacturing industry is heading,” C2E recruiter Dianne Segura said.