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Dec. 5, 2021

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Clark College targets manufacturing, region’s needs

School plans to align programs with workforce and growing career fields

By , Columbian Education Reporter
Published:
5 Photos
From left to right, students David Gullickson, Toby Sabandith and Bruce Gates, test a pick-and-place robot during their mechatronics class at Clark College in Vancouver on Wednesday. Clark College is tailoring its advanced manufacturing programs to better meet the needs of local companies.
From left to right, students David Gullickson, Toby Sabandith and Bruce Gates, test a pick-and-place robot during their mechatronics class at Clark College in Vancouver on Wednesday. Clark College is tailoring its advanced manufacturing programs to better meet the needs of local companies. (Ariane Kunze/The Columbian) Photo Gallery

At 22, Jordan Mazi is still studying for his mechatronics degree at Clark College. But he’s already got a job.

Mazi, who was drawn to the “hands-on work” the program offers, is doing maintenance and repair work on wafer manufacturing machines for Linear Technology in Camas. It’s the kind of success story that highlights the growing demand for skilled workers in 21st century manufacturing sectors.

Clark College has singled out these types of programs in its Academic Plan, a five-year look at how the campus plans to grow programs and improve its curriculum. The Academic Plan, which was adopted in April, points to six goals for the college through 2020.

It’s not exactly an easy read, filled with academic jargon that may mean little to an average student or stakeholder at the college. But one of the plan’s chief goals — a desire to “align program offerings with regional workforce and community needs” — lays the foundation for the college to work with industry leaders and economic development groups to develop programs with jobs in mind. Many of these jobs are in manufacturing sectors, such as Clark College’s welding program, which recently began offering certification testing at a cheaper price than private test administrators.

Tim Cook, vice president for instruction at Clark College, said those relationships are an “informal process,” but are allowing the college to make an investment of time and energy into improving programs with companies in mind.

“I would say, if anything, what we’re trying to do is be more responsive to community needs,” Cook said. “Those are careers that are showing up.”

Take, for example, Mazi’s mechatronics class. At the college’s Columbia Tech Center campus on Wednesday, a group of students observed as robotic arms moved a disc from platform to platform.

Over the course of the quarter, students will learn how to troubleshoot hardware and software problems with the machines, as well as how to program a machine to perform basic tasks.

Instructor Ken Luchini said the class prepares students to repair and work with manufacturing robots, a growing field.

“There are so many job opportunities,” Luchini said. “They know a little bit of everything.”

Christopher Lewis, chair for the mechatronics technology department, lauded Clark College’s efforts to focus on advanced manufacturing jobs.

“I think typically a program like this being a vocationally focused program speaks to the direct involvement of our industry partners,” he said. “To have the college embrace that as a priority benefits the community overall.”

Columbian Education Reporter
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