PETOSKEY — Students planning to earn a bachelor’s degree in engineering technology can now begin their education closer to home –– and at significant savings –– thanks to North Central Michigan College’s newest curriculum.
Available this fall, the associate of science degree with a major in engineering technology allows graduates to complete general education requirements with a foundation in math, science, and engineering before moving on to a bachelor’s degree program at a university. Credits earned will transfer to North Central’s partner institutions, including Central Michigan University, Ferris State University and Lake Superior State University.
“This pathway will allow for seamless transfer into a four-year program in any engineering major,” said Vice President for Academic Affairs Steven Strom. “It’s also an opportunity for students to enter the workforce with industry-recognized certifications or ‘upskilling’ to expand their careers as an advanced manufacturing technician.”
College officials said the new degree course is the latest development in North Central’s efforts to become a leader in Industry 4.0, so-called because it represents the fourth industrial revolution: smart factories featuring autonomous machines, automated manufacturing and advanced robotics powered from data and machine learning.
“Industry 4.0 has brought a higher level of automation and interconnectedness to the manufacturing process,” said Jim Cousineau, North Central’s dean of career and technical education. “It’s the gold standard for companies looking to retrain their current workforce or hire new employees.”
Embedded in the program curriculum are standards set by the Intelligent Automation Certification Alliance (SACA), which is the world’s only certification body that provides certificates and stackable micro-credentials related to Industry 4.0.
Flexibility and customization of the program are key to what sets North Central’s program apart, Cousineau noted. He added that they are extremely important for students as well.
“These microcredentials are endorsements that recognize knowledge and skills in highly focused areas such as electrical systems or programmable logic controller troubleshooting,” he said. “Students can stack these into specialist-level certificates to continually build their resume, or they can work their way up to an associate degree.”
Training will take place in the college’s new Manufacturing and Engineering Technology Laboratory, home to hands-on learning systems ranging from electromechanical systems to industrial robots, fluid power, drives and motors. At the center of the lab is the Amatrol 870 Mechatronics System, a replica of a modern smart factory that integrates every individual lab component into one large, fully automated production line.
“The Amatrol Smart Factory is where every single engineering discipline meets the skills and competencies we teach,” said instructor Jerry Brusher. “This is where our students go from knowing this to knowing how.”
And officials said graduates who know how will be in high demand. Deloitte, a global accounting and consulting firm, cites 2.1 million skilled manufacturing jobs available by 2030. Their report, 2022 Manufacturing Industry Outlook, adds that half of executives expect to increase efficiency through artificial intelligence and technologies such as robots and “cobots ” or collaborative robots. Those companies will be looking to hire skilled engineers and technicians to program, maintain and repair their robots and machines, Cousineau said.
“The professional outlook is extremely positive,” he said. “We prepare our graduates not just for jobs, but for rewarding careers.”