TCAT Elizabethton instructor introduces new robotics and manufacturing program to students


ELIZABETHTON, Tenn. (WJHL) – A report by the manufacturing institute study states that between now and 2028, a skills gap, will leave about 2.4 million positions empty in the manufacturing industry.

A new instructor at Tennessee College of Applied Technology is working to change that.

The shortage is due to top employees retiring and others having trouble keeping their skills up to date. The demand of new equipment also plays a role. A new TCAT program is teaching students the skills they need in the industry.

“A lot of local companies are investing in more automation now. Local companies ae getting more automated now, and so there’s a demand and a need for these skills set employees to fill those jobs,” Charlie Phillips said.

Charlie Phillips a TCAT ELizabethton alumnus of 1991. He majored in electricity and electronics. Phillips also holds an associate of applied science degree in electrical technology and electronic engineering from Northeast State and a B.S. degree in Computer Information Systems from Milligan College. In total, he brings 21 years of experience to the college.

TCAT Elizabethton has received new equipment that mimics the manufacturing industry.

The advanced manufacturing instructor has started a 20-month program at TCAT Elizabethton.

“We’re going to do numadics and hydraulic systems. We’re going to study about sensors that pertaining to numadics. We’re going to cover matronix robotic systems, and how we program them.

It is a new program being funded by Governor Bill Lee’s “Governor’s Investment in Vocational Education” (GIVE) grant. It is to fund “Northeast STEM to Work” training at the college. He awarded the college a $1 million on Jan. 3, according to TCAT.

Phillips said, “It’s a brand new course with the governor’s grant investment of over a million dollars. The state has provided us with equipment with mechanical applications. We’re going to do numadics and hydrolic systems. We’re going to study about sensors that pertaining to numadics. We’re going to cover matronix robotic systems, and how we program them. We’re going to cover PLC’s, Siemens and Allen Bradley. We’re going to study about different aspects of the automation implementation.”

A $1 million grant from Governor Bill Lee has given TCAT Elizabethton new equipment for a new manufacturing 20-month program.

“…and we do barrings and pulleys. We do allignment with vibration analysis. We’re going to do a ball screw, bell allignments and pulleys,” Phillips added.

Phillips said many companies are using the same technology his students.

“We start getting into robotics and automation systems and learning how to program safe zones with those. We also start touching base with PLCs. Our last two terms, we do full automation and aggression, where we would build a cell, develop an application of what we want to do,” Phillips said.

The course has already attracted students like Parks Buchanan.

Buchanan said, “I think this is a great opportunity for a lot of kids, especially who don’t necessarily enjoy traditional school because I didn’t and I love it here. I love how it’s going and it’s a shorter amount of time. It’s cheaper and it’s just overall a better experience.”

Buchanan, a first-year student at TCAT plans to pursue manfucaturing in Atlanta.

Buchanan said, “When I finish this program, I can go work pretty much anywhere in the country, where there’s a manufacturing plant, and I really enjoy that because I like to travel.”

Phillips said high school students in the area will also benefit from this new program.

“We will have a mobile lab that will go to all the high schools for a nine-week period of time,” Phillips said. Students from Washington County, Greene County and Carter County will have the opportunity to take those courses and get credit for them if they choose to come over here.”

High school students who plan to pursue a career in the manufacturing industry can actually complete the program in 15 to 16 months, which is less time than TCAT students will spend in the classroom.

The first high school labs will be at Elizabethton and Unicoi County High Schools. A decision has not yet been made on the next high schools to be added.

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