Festo Didactic Learning Systems North America and its partners gathered at a to announce new plans for the Mechatronics Apprenticeship Program (MAP). The event was hosted by Festo at its Regional Service Center (RSC) in Mason with industry, education and government coming together to strengthen workforce development for Industry 4.0 careers. Guest speakers included representatives from the Lt. Governor’s office and ApprenticeOhio, and the event was attended by local manufacturing companies as well as former and current apprentices.
“Festo’s side of the apprenticeship provided an affordable, unique, hands-on approach to learning mechatronics. This program taught me the very basics of electrical power up to advanced industrial troubleshooting,” said Kenneth Bibb, a former Festo Didactic apprentice. “I was able to gain more learning and experience with Festo than I would have in a traditional four-year university. Festo has set my life up perfectly by providing the skills I needed through the apprenticeship to begin a successful mechatronics engineering career.”
The mechatronics program has been a growing collaboration among Art Metal Group, Clippard Instruments, E-Beam, MQ Automation, Nestlé, Festo Didactic and others. At its core, MAP supports manufacturers locally and nationally in training and retaining skilled workers. Heading into its sixth year, MAP will begin accepting apprenticeships on a rolling admission basis instead of a semester schedule. The program will consist of 57 weeks of training instead of five semesters. This transition will allow for more apprentices to enroll faster, train faster and get to work faster.
In January 2020, Governor Mike DeWine signed a bill into law earmarking $17.5 million per year for businesses that pay for employees to upgrade their technology skills. Through Ohio’s TechCred program, the state will reimburse as much as $2,000 per employee and $30,000 per employer when a company pays for a current or prospective employee to earn an industry-recognized credential in technology-focused programs like MAP. The next TechCred application opens on November 1, 2022, and will close on November 30, 2022, at 3:00 p.m. ET.
Nationwide, apprenticeship continues to experience strong growth. On September 1, 2022, the White House launched the Apprenticeship Ambassador Initiative, a national network of more than 200 employers and other organizations who signed on to create almost 500 hundred new registered apprenticeship programs. Through the new federal initiative, companies agreed to build new programs across a range of industries and to hire 10,000 new apprentices in the coming year. The Department of Labor also announced plans to invest more than $330 million through grants to states, employers, labor organizations and workforce intermediaries to expand and diversify registered apprenticeships.
According to apprenticeship.gov, managed by the Department of Labor (DoL), 93% of apprentices who complete an apprenticeship retain employment, with an average annual salary of $77,000. Additionally, DoL case studies have shown that pre-apprenticeship and apprenticeship programs can attract more diverse candidates, including women and people of color, and increase employment of disabled workers.
“Manufacturing workers must be tech savvy with well-rounded skills in today’s industrial job market,” said Tony Oran, vice president of Festo Didactic North America. “It used to be that coding and software design knowledge were skill sets mainly associated with office jobs but now they’re an integral part of modern factory life. With some of the most exciting innovations in advanced manufacturing taking place here in Ohio, our job, along with our partners in industry, education and government is to remove obstacles and introduce students to these promising career pathways.”
At the Festo Learning Center, a full-scale Industry 4.0 Experience Center is also in the works. The new center and showroom are aimed at closing the STEM skills gap by bringing technical education, industrial applications and actual manufacturing all under one roof. The Experience Center will house the latest in Festo technology from networked cyber-physical stations to factory robots, assembly components, supply chain innovation and more.
Classes will be held at Festo’s Regional Service Center, a 47-acre state-of-the-art logistics and manufacturing plant. The plant opened in 2015 and is among the 15 largest employers in Mason.
This is just the latest effort from Festo Didactic. Earlier this year, the company solidified its partnership with Patrick & Henry Community College, signing a formal agreement to deepen their existing partnership. The signing signifies a new chapter for the partners in their ability to strengthen the local talent pipeline by exploring the possibility of extending into secondary schools, and by agreeing to increase overall resources for training equipment and professional development at P&HCC.
Festo Didactic also announced a partnership with PMMI, The Association for Packaging and Processing Technologies, to provide PMMI members and education partners with advanced technical education and hands-on training aligned with the industry’s highest standards. Together, the two organizations plan to bring highly customizable training options to packaging and processing companies, helping to close the growing STEM skills gap.