Posted October 7, 2021
Lorain County Community College is kicking off Manufacturing Month with the announcement of its second bachelor of applied science degree, this one in Smart Industrial Automated Systems Engineering Technology. Chancellor Randy Gardner of the Ohio Department of Higher Education approved LCCC to move forward with development of the program, which focuses on integrating, operating, modifying, and troubleshooting smart manufacturing systems based on “off-the-shelf” industrial equipment directly related to smart manufacturing.
The Chancellor’s go-ahead marks the first phase of the approval process as the college prepares to next seek approval from the Ohio Department of Higher Education and then the Higher Learning Commission. LCCC is well-versed in the process, having launched its first Bachelor of Applied Science in Microelectronic Manufacturing (MEMS) in 2018. Much like the MEMS program, LCCC developed the Smart Industrial Automated Systems Engineering Technology degree program in response to the rapid development of disruptive technologies that are shaping advanced manufacturing in Northeast Ohio.
“LCCC is proud to have once again worked directly with local employers to ensure we meet their evolving talent needs and we are thankful to the Lorain County Chamber, the Lorain County Manufacturing Sector Partnership and other regional partners like Team NEO for working closely with us to make this degree possible,” said LCCC President Marcia J. Ballinger, Ph.D. “This bachelor of applied science in smart manufacturing will provide students with the knowledge and skills for current in-demand local jobs, as well as those of the future.”
Smart Industrial Automated Systems Engineering Technology represents a multidisciplinary engineering field concerned with the design, modeling, analysis and control of predominantly computer-based automated systems or processes, often referred to as smart manufacturing. Automated systems typically contain a mixture of sensors, equipment, devices, software, hardware and humans and requires knowledge of elements of electrical engineering, mechanical engineering, software programming, networking, security, and human factors engineering. The program will be designed to meet the Accreditation Board for Engineering & Technology requirements and train students for job roles such as automation engineer, controls engineer, systems engineer and more.
Those positions, which cut across multiple industry sectors, are in high demand now with anticipated growth in the coming years. In 2020, over 21,000 individuals were employed in Northeast Ohio within similar positions and 72% of occupations in Northeast Ohio related to Smart Manufacturing and Automation require a bachelor’s degree as typical entry level education. Today, labor market data company Emsi forecasts 8,750 regional openings in these occupations in the next five years.
As industrial automation continues to play a key role in regional companies’ abilities to remain productive and competitive in an increasingly global economy, many local businesses are anticipating hiring both students and graduates of LCCC’s Smart Industrial Automated Systems Engineering Technology program.
“As we strive to maintain our competitiveness, we understand that robotics technicians, specialists, and integrators can help AgriNomix LLC accomplish its goals,” said Joseph Smith, VP of manufacturing for the Oberlin company that supplies equipment to the North American horticulture industry. “With quality training courses focused on equipment operation, engineering and design issues associated with a dynamic manufacturing environment, LCCC can help address an unmet need in the advanced manufacturing workforce pipeline.”
AgriNomix, which has hired several graduates from the college’s associate degree program focused on automation and robotics in the last few years, collaborated with the college to develop the Smart Industrial Automation associate and bachelor’s degree programs. The company also worked with LCCC to develop its MEMS programs, which have had 100 percent job placement among graduates. The programs’ success is partly due to its engrained earn and learn model that embeds work-based learning at local companies and will also be integrated into the Smart Industrial Automated Systems Engineering Technology program. These paid positions make the already low tuition of the new program – $15,000 – even more affordable.
Sarah Park knows how valuable early exposure to the industry can be. She’s one of three LCCC students working at AgriNomix as a part-time electrical technician and has been there since September 2019.
“Starting a job with a local company while working on a degree helps students smoothly transfer into the workforce right after graduation with relevant work experience,” Park says.
In her role, Park assists in wiring, testing, and troubleshooting automated greenhouse equipment before it’s sent to the company’s customers. Park earned her Associate of Applied Science in Automated Manufacturing Technology – Maintenance/Repair from LCCC and is now pursuing her Bachelor of Applied Science in Automated Manufacturing Engineering Technology at The University of Akron through LCCC’s University Partnership program. Once she graduates, Park will transition to a full-time field service technician, installing equipment at customer sites across the country.
This kind of upward mobility is common at AgriNomix, especially for LCCC graduates, which includes Smith. In 2003 he earned his Bachelor of Applied Science in Automated Manufacturing Engineering Technology from The University of Akron through LCCC’s University Partnership program – the same program Park is enrolled in now.
LCCC launched the University Partnership in 1996 to offer Lorain County residents access to affordable bachelor’s and master’s degrees from its campus. The college was the first in Ohio to offer such a program and throughout its 25 years, the University Partnership has given LCCC a unique understanding around developing and offering bachelor’s programs.
“LCCC has a solid history of ‘firsts’ in Ohio,” said Ballinger. “We were the first community college to have a permanent campus in the state and we were the first to offer bachelor’s and master’s degree programs from four-year universities on our campus through the University Partnership. That history and experience paved the way for us to become the first community college to offer our own applied bachelor’s degree programs in niche in-demand areas of the economy.”
Through its 10,000 Degrees of Impact pledge, the college has committed to awarding degrees and credentials to 10,000 individuals by 2025. This new bachelor’s degree program broadens the college’s scope of educational offerings, at substantial costs savings to the students.
“LCCC has helped increase bachelor’s degree attainment for Lorain County residents, including a 75 percent increase in the number of Lorain County residents with bachelor’s degrees since 2000,” Ballinger said. “I can think of no better complement to the University Partnership’s efforts to offer affordable bachelor’s degree programs to Lorain County residents than to add our own bachelor of applied science programs focused on in-demand, high-paying fields.”