Make It...In SoVA Luncheon 2017

On September 29th, regional leaders from industry, workforce development, and education attended Make It…in SoVA where the Southern Virginia Higher Education Center (SVHEC) launched its newest workforce training partnership with Siemens Technik Akadmie in Berlin, Germany.

“We’re excited to officially launch our partnership with Siemens Technik Akademie. This partnership, and the Siemens Mechatronic Systems Certification Program, will provide a tremendous asset and resource for industries in Southern Virginia,” said Dr. Betty Adams, SVHEC Executive Director.

The Make It…in SoVa launch event highlighted the mechatronics training program, and featured special guest speakers from Berlin, Germany and Carson City, Nevada. Mechatronics combines mechanical, electrical, computer, and software and control engineering to design and manufacture products. Individuals trained in mechatronics are prepared for many successful careers including machine operator, industrial maintenance technician, and electrician.

Lauren von Steuben, Product Manager for Digital Products Division at Siemens AG in Berlin, Germany, and oversees the Siemens Mechatronic Systems Certification Program (SMSCP) in 16 countries. She provided an overview of the SMSCP program which provides an internationally recognized certification for individuals trained in mechatronics.

“With the SMSCP, students are able to earn a global certification without leaving Virginia. This is the same certification as students in Canada, Germany, and India,” von Steuben said. “Everything is hands on with 30% theory and 70% practice. The core of the program is hands-on practice and troubleshooting working with real mechatronic systems,” she continued. She described individuals who obtain the Siemens mechatronic certification as being ready to “hit the ground running,” when hired by industry.

According to von Steuben, the SMSCP is vendor neutral and not dependent on Siemens, or any particular, equipment, “SMSCP is a mechatronic skills certification, not a Siemens product certification,” she said.

Make It…in SoVA attendees also heard from Dr. Emily Howarth, Professor of Electronics and Industrial Technology at Western Nevada College in Carson City, Nevada. Dr. Howarth launched the SMSCP program a year ago at Western Nevada College, and since then, has seen the difference mechatronics trained students make within industry. “Whatever your field or industry mechatronics will cover it. Mechatronic students can analyze problems and provide solutions at a higher level than those not trained in mechatronics. They understand how their work affects other people, and the company’s bottom-line,” she stated.

Dr. Howarth went on to say that a number of major industries in Nevada, including Tesla, Zappos, Panasonic, and GE, have “bought into” the concept of mechatronics, hiring graduates from her program and often paying them higher wages because of their Siemens mechatronics certification.

David Kenealy, Director of Industry & Workforce Advancement at the Southern Virginia Higher Education Center shared information about mechatronics training at the SVHEC. Currently all three levels of the SMSCP are available, with several training cohorts in progress. A cohort of seven trainees completed Level 1 mechatronics training in August 2017, and a new cohort of Level 2 trainees is scheduled to start in October. Kenealy emphasized mechatronics training as being essential for preparing workers for the future growth of industrial automation.

Dr. Betty Adams closed the launch by speaking directly to regional employers saying, “Mechatronics training is hands-on, customized, vendor-neutral, and gives you more bang for your buck. But if you leave with only one thought I hope it is this: The Southern Virginia Higher Education Center is here to help you, to serve you. We want you to succeed because we want Southern Virginia to be strong.”

A number of industry representatives attended Make It…in SoVA and were pleased with the information they heard. Cindy Kirby, HR Coordinator for American Buildings Company stated, “I’m very excited about this program. I’m looking forward to investigating it to see what options are available for American Buildings Company.”

Individuals or employers interested in learning more about mechatronics training or the Siemens Mechatronic Certification Program at the Southern Virginia Higher Education Center are encouraged to visit contact program coordinator Scarlett Brandon at 434-572-5473 or by email at scarlettbrandon@svhec.org.