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Virginia Western to host Mechatronics Program open house on Thursday

Recently, the Roanoke Region hosted major announcements of business expansions for Italian auto parts manufacturer Eldor Corporation (350 new jobs) and Deschutes Brewery (108 new jobs). At both announcements, Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe and business leaders cited Virginia Western Community College’s Mechatronics Program and the region’s trained workforce as major reasons for these positive economic developments.

Virginia Western will provide prospective students the opportunity to get in on the ground floor with these companies and others like them through a Mechatronics Program open house on Thursday, May 12.

WHAT:                 Mechatronics Program open house

WHEN:                 3-6 p.m., Thursday, May 12

WHERE:               Beginning on first floor of Webber Hall, Virginia Western Community College (Directions)

DETAILS:              During this open house, students and their supporters can learn about the Mechatronics Program and tour the College’s Design Lab, Mechatronics Lab, FABLAB and Electrical Lab. Information sessions about Mechatronics will be held every half hour.

Mechatronics is the blending of mechanics, electronics and information technology. It provides graduates with the hands-on training they need to begin careers in diverse fields such as aerospace, automotive, building technologies, consumer products, logistics, energy, green technology, manufacturing, materials processing, medical, mining and transportation. Students can earn industry recognized certifications that show employers they have the knowledge necessary to succeed.

No registration is required to attend this free event. Current and prospective students are encouraged to attend and begin at the check-in table on the first floor of Webber Hall on Thursday.

Virginia Western receives national recognition for its use of technology

The Center for Digital Education (CDE) announced that Virginia Western Community College placed second in the mid-sized colleges category of its 2015-16 Digital Community Colleges Survey. Now in its eleventh year, the Digital Community Colleges Survey analyzes how community colleges across the country use a range of technologies to improve services to students, faculty, staff and the community at large.

“This year’s survey indicates community colleges are making great strides in using data to improve decisions, providing professional development to assist faculty in the use of technology, and creating robust online and mobile environments for their students,” said Dr. Kecia Ray, executive director for the Center for Digital Education. “Congratulations to this year’s survey winners.”

Virginia Western has been selected for Top 3 honors on the Digital Community Colleges Survey for each of the past six years. The college, which earned a first place ranking in 2011, recently relaunched a completely redesigned web site at www.virginiawestern.edu.

Hostos Community College in the Bronx, NY, placed first in the mid-sized colleges category, which includes colleges with between 5,000-10,000 students. Award winners demonstrated innovative uses of technology, including online courses and mobile environments, mobile apps, secure platforms and wireless networks.

This year’s Digital Community Colleges Survey also revealed insights about community colleges’ technology priorities. Colleges surveyed indicated that mobility devices/app support and website redesign are their top priorities in the coming year, followed by cybersecurity tools and testing, network infrastructure modernization, server consolidation and virtualization, and disaster recovery/business continuity. The survey also revealed that, 59 percent of colleges now offer professional development courses on how to use mobile apps for instruction; while 93 percent offer professional development courses on how to integrate technology into curriculum and instructional practices.

All accredited U.S. community colleges are eligible to participate in the Digital Community Colleges Survey within three classifications based on enrollment size.

View the full list of colleges honored at: http://www.centerdigitaled.com/awards/digital-community-colleges/National-Survey-Recognizes-Top-10-Tech-Savvy-Community-Colleges.html.

MSI and Virginia Western announce new manufacturing skills partnership

The Manufacturing Skills Institute (MSI), the workforce development affiliate of the Virginia Manufacturers Association, announced today at the Dream It Do It Virginia Symposium that nine community colleges will be designated as authorized MSI Assessment Centers: Virginia Western Community College, Blue Ridge Community College, Community College Workforce Alliance (John Tyler Community College and J. Sargent Reynolds Community College), Mountain Empire Community College, Southside Virginia Community College, Tidewater Community College, Thomas Nelson Community College and Virginia Highlands Community College.

The new MSI Assessment Centers will expand credentialing opportunities for Virginians to demonstrate skills to close the workforce skills gap. The initial focus of the partnership will be to expand the MSI Manufacturing Technician 1 (MT1) certificate program as a baseline credential for Virginia’s 6,000 manufacturers as well as integrating it into degree pathways and dual enrollment opportunities so that the emerging workforce has the 12 critical technical skills that are fundamental to occupations in advanced technology industries.

The system office of Virginia’s Community Colleges (VCCS) has been integral in this development. The VCCS recently provided support to local community colleges wishing to pursue MSI training and Assessment Center status. This investment from the VCCS has enabled Virginia’s community colleges to further enhance students’ pursuit of industry credentials to prepare them for modern manufacturing.

“The MT1 certification can be a launching pad for individuals across Virginia,” said VCCS Chancellor Glenn DuBois. “This holds the potential to be a stackable credential that helps a person on his or her pathway to a specific career within the manufacturing field, like welding, metal working or mechatronics. And it’s one more step away from that ‘bachelor’s or bust’ mindset that can prevent people from promising opportunities in high-demand career areas.”

This announcement is part of an aggressive move to expand the MT1 certificate program into community colleges and educational partners across the United States. The MT1 is part of the NAM-Endorsed Manufacturing Skills Certifications System and is approved by the Virginia Board of Education for high school use. The MT1 has also been approved for use by Workforce Investment Boards for special populations and veterans wishing to improve their manufacturing skills.

“We are excited to work with the MSI to provide opportunities for this certification for our students,” said Virginia Western mechatronics program head Dan Horine. “Having real-world transferable skills is invaluable for them as they seek to build strong careers in the Roanoke Region.”

“We knew in 2007 that manufacturers would have a skills gap of approximately 11,000 people a year. We also knew that the largest need was in the Manufacturing Technician occupation and 96% of manufacturers wanted people with these applied and measurable skills. Although the economic challenges of the last few years slowed demand, it is back and we need to move quickly and this partnership between MSI and Virginia’s community colleges will help close the skills gaps for manufacturers” said Brett Vassey, VMA President & CEO.

The new community college based MSI Assessment Centers will be joining ECPI University, which has six MSI Assessment Centers across the Commonwealth, as well as the Southern Virginia Higher Education Center in offering MT1 resources. MSI’s next MT1 Train-the-Trainer Course for community college instructors begins October 20 in Richmond, Virginia.