Owensboro Community and Technical College Invests in Program to Advance Women in Manufacturing
OWENSBORO, KY – Owensboro Community and Technical College (OCTC), a recipient of a $2.85-million grant from the Kentucky Work Ready Skills Initiative (KWRSI), has invested in a state-of-the-art innovation lab to prepare students for the future of work by giving them a real-world glimpse into advanced manufacturing and Industry 4.0 careers.
OCTC was also awarded an Advanced Technological Education (ATE) grant from the National Science Foundation last July to expand opportunities for females in manufacturing. Female students make up about 44 percent of the technical students enrolled at OCTC. That percentage drops to only 7 percent for female students enrolled in manufacturing programs.
“Advancing Female Incumbent Workers in the Manufacturing Industry” is a three-year grant funded project to increase the number of females entering manufacturing training programs and to advance females currently working in the manufacturing industry. Through the project, manufacturing courses will be offered to full-time female incumbent workers at times convenient for their work schedule. The project also includes efforts to increase awareness of cultural barriers in the classroom and at work that prevent females from pursuing manufacturing as a viable career choice.
Amanda Saam, a lead instructor at OCTC, left her job at Hitachi in part with the mission to increase gender equality in manufacturing. Reflecting upon her own experience Saam says, “The community college program I went through was life-changing and prepared me well for industry at an entry-level. However, the school didn't have the innovation that we have here at OCTC.”
At the center of the innovation is Festo Didactic’s Cyber-Physical (CP) Lab. The simulated Smart Factory includes integrated logistics, communication, mechatronics, robotic assembly, and troubleshooting capabilities. It’s fully networked and virtually integrated with HMI (human-machine interface), PLCs, Data Acquisition, Collection and Analysis (SCADA), and wireless connection networking. The lab also utilizes material handling robots with infrared vision capability for advanced robotic training.
“Festo’s CP Lab looks exactly like what I saw in industry,” Saam says. “If I had been exposed to and trained on equipment like that, I would have been light years ahead of the curve. With the Festo trainer, a student can get hands-on experience with how systems work, how to troubleshoot real-life obstacles and feel less intimidated in industry.”
“There’s a level of excitement from people when they see what the Festo Smart Factory floor can do,” says Sheri Plain, director of Workforce Services at OCTC. “You see that spark go off and people are curious to know if they can interact with the robots and high-tech operating systems too. It starts the conversation about modern day manufacturing and the exciting opportunities that exist in the industry today.”
Plain adds, “What we’re trying to accomplish is to show students that advanced manufacturing is exciting and interesting, whether you’re male or female, whether you’re young or old, you can do this type of work.”
For more information about the “Advancing Female Incumbent Workers in the Manufacturing Industry” project, please contact Sheri Plain at 270/686-4436 or Amanda Saam at 270/686-4462.
About Owensboro Community & Technical College (OCTC)
Owensboro Community & Technical College is one of 16 community and technical colleges that make up the Kentucky Community & Technical College System. OCTC strives to serve its communities by providing associate degree education for transfer; state-of-the-art technical education for students focused on entering the workforce; customized business and industry solutions through the Workforce Solutions division; and adult education through SkillTrain.
About Festo Didactic
Festo Didactic is a provider of technical education equipment and training. Festo’s educational solutions evolved from its automation and engineering division and integrates the latest trends in each learning system it offers. The innovative product range allows educators and trainers to equip their classrooms with the technology they need, from individual workstations to complete Learning Factories, as well as training and consulting, eLearning, courseware solutions, and LMS integration.