High-Tech Jobs on the Rise, MACC Responds with New Program

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COLUMBIA - Keeping up with technology is a fool's errand, there's always something new. There are more updates, upgrades and gadgets. So, the industry needs more people. Some Columbia companies are having a hard time finding these workers and looked to Moberly Area Community College for help.

The college started a new mechatronics program with the help of 3M and other local companies. This is the first semester for the program, which is offered at MACC's Columbia location. Mike Klote serves as the instructor for the program and said as companies use more high-tech machinery, they need people who know how to operate it.

"They're highly automated, but when you take one out of the crate it just sits there like a hunk of steel. It won't do anything until a mechatronics technician installs it, calibrates it and programs it. So, these high skilled abilities are in great demand," Klote said.

Klote's job is to get these students ready to meet that demand. He teaches two classes a week that run two hours each.

"I keep telling the students you're going to be the masters of technology when you get out there. You're where the rubber meets the road when it comes to technology. You're going to make it happen," Klote said.

Mechatronics is the combination of mechanical maintenance and electronic systems. Companies in every industry are looking for these technicians who can keep assembly lines and equipment running. 3M is one of those places.

"Having people that know how to run those systems, how to work on them, troubleshoot, repair, all of those kinds of activities are things that require a very specific skill," said 3M Product Manager David Buster.

3M helped create the mechatronics program at MACC. The company approached the college about training people to work for 3M and other local companies in need for these skilled workers. 3M also gave MACC a grant to buy the equipment.

"This program is kind of about keeping local talent local," Buster said. "And it enables us to hire some great workers as well."

Other Columbia companies like Kraft Foods and Gates are on board too and students are signing up for the program.

"It's always good to know a trade because then that's something that I don't think ever will die. Even though machines will take over, somebody or something will have to work on the machines. I think it's excellent job security," said mechatronics student Ben Johnson.

"There's a big demand for this degree out there right now. And we're one of the first classes to get out there and we'll have a wide opportunity," said mechatronics student Bryce Graves.

Klote said the program is a win, win for employers, workers and our community.

"We really want the students to be exposed to state of the art technology, that's the whole goal." Klote said. "They embrace that and it's exciting to see that. It really is."

For more information on the mechatronics program, click here.