18:10 PM

WCTC and Industry 4.0: Preparing educators/students for tech careers

Partnerships focus on training; emphasis on fluid power


Industry 4.0 – or the fourth industrial revolution -- has already begun to change the face of manufacturing. Computers and automation have increasingly become mainstream in modern factories, but now these systems are working together -- and smarter -- as devices seamlessly communicate with one another to improve productivity.

Employees need the skillsets to program, control and manage these processes and systems, and Waukesha County Technical College has been at the forefront of Industry 4.0, modifying its curriculum offerings, collaborating with local high schools and arming instructors with the tools needed to prepare students for evolving manufacturing jobs.

WCTC recently held a kick-off event for area educators and industry partners, including representatives from the National Fluid Power Association (NFPA) for the Fluid Power and Applied Mechatronics Training and Employment Network (FAMTEN), to announce a collaboration with area high schools. WCTC was chosen as the first FAMTEN tech school due to its proximity to the NFPA and its commitment to expanding a fluid power curriculum.

Mike Shiels, WCTC School of Applied Technologies dean, said the College has been researching ways to further develop an Industry 4.0 partnership and curriculum that combine elements of smart manufacturing, automation and mechatronics, particularly as they relate to fluid power -- both hydraulic (water or other liquids) and pneumatic (gas or pressurized air).

“We offer fluid power courses in many of our programs – Automation Systems Technology, Facilities Maintenance, Industrial Maintenance Technician and apprenticeships. This is a big component of Industry 4.0 training, and our hope is to expand these offerings in the future,” Shiels said.

While WCTC course selections will expand, so will learning opportunities at several area school districts, including New Berlin, Sussex-Hamilton, Oconomowoc, Menomonee Falls, Elmbrook, Arrowhead and Kettle Moraine.

Through the FAMTEN network, high school students will receive hydraulic and pneumatic training -- similar to what is taught in WCTC fluid power courses. Starting in the 2018-19 academic year, this training will be integrated into various high school-level technical classes, among them, Project Lead the Way (PLTW) courses. (In many cases, WCTC students can earn credits for PLTW courses, depending on which WCTC program they enroll.)

FAMTEN is donating equipment from Amatrol and Festo Didactic (both providers of interactive, technical learning and educational systems) to each of the area high schools and WCTC, and representatives from the two companies will hold training sessions for high school and WCTC instructors at the College in June.

“This is a great tool, from a curriculum perspective. It will provide meaningful training for students at the high school level, and it will expose them to many career opportunities. The careers we’re training for in Industry 4.0 are getting more and more advanced, and this experience can help them segue into the next level of education, such as Dual Enrollment Academy, or directly into an associate degree or diploma program,” Shiels said.