It’s not unusual for career and technical education (CTE) programs to reach out to local experts for help teaching the next generation of students the skills they need to succeed in the workplace. After all, who better to pass along valuable knowledge and demonstrate hands-on skills than someone with real-life industrial experience?
That’s why you’ll find Doug Maley at the helm of the Smart Technologies and Automation program at the Impact Institute, a career center with both high school and adult education programs in northeast Indiana. With more than 35 years of experience in controls engineering, manufacturing engineering, and programming in the manufacturing industry, Doug was a natural choice to teach students about the latest smart automation technologies.
The Impact Institute’s mission “is to impact lives and create career and college ready students.” That’s exactly what Doug is doing as students navigate his two-year Smart Technologies and Automation program. According to the program’s description:
“The Smart Technologies & Automation program is a place where Information Technology, Smart Technologies, Automation, and Robotics come together to create the most efficient workplaces of the future. It is an environment where students will learn how machines ‘talk’ to machines and machines ‘talk’ to people through the Internet and the Cloud in order to make life and work more convenient.”
Doug’s program at the Impact Institute uses Amatrol’s Industry 4.0 Fundamentals (I4F) training systems and eLearning curriculum as its basis. I4F was developed by subject matter experts in conjunction with real-world feedback from industry and educational institutions to ensure that students with no background in manufacturing can begin with the basics like industrial safety, hand tool skills, etc. and build to industrial competencies in areas like PLC troubleshooting, mechatronics, and data analytics, as well as learning to program and operate a FANUC robot.
The Impact Institute isn’t affiliated with one particular high school. Instead, students from more than a dozen high schools in the area participate in its programs. Doug’s program will help to create a pipeline of skilled talent for the many manufacturers in northeast Indiana, some of which have already adopted Industry 4.0 technologies and some of which still need to.
In recruiting students for his program, Doug has faced some of the same challenges manufacturers face trying to lure students to manufacturing jobs. According to Doug, “manufacturing is still viewed as hard labor, dirty work. People don’t understand that the factory has changed. I’ll say this, it’s cleaner than my house!”
So part of his job has been to educate potential students and their parents about the nature of modern industry. He tells them, “industry is not what it used to be, and industry recognizes that they need people with technical backgrounds.”
He also emphasizes the hands-on skills students are taught as part of his program. When Doug was a kid, he helped his dad fix a lawn tractor engine and then moved on to fixing other small engines. Those experiences helped him understand that he was a hands-on learner. He now sees many of his students learning the same way: “They can read. They can listen. But when they really begin to get it is when they get the hands-on experience.”
A key benefit of the hands-on experiences students receive is the ability to earn industry-standard certifications that show potential employers that they possess the skills industry needs. For example, several of Doug’s students have earned both silver and gold C-101 Certified Industry 4.0 Associate I – Basic Operations certifications from the Smart Automation Certification Alliance (SACA).
These certifications are an important link in the chain that connects students’ educational experience to an eventual career in manufacturing. In fact, after their first year in his program, several of Doug’s students earned internships with local manufacturers, helping them to reinforce what they learned while paving the way for a potential full-time position upon graduation.
To help his students learn more about job opportunities in the area, Doug took them to a job fair that featured a variety of local manufacturers. Through this process, the students learned an important lesson: not all manufacturers have yet to adopt Industry 4.0 technologies. Seeing companies that hadn’t yet embraced new smart automation technologies made some students say, “I don’t want to work there.”
However, Doug seized the opportunity to open their eyes to the possibilities before them. He told them, “Oh no, those companies that are still Industry 3.0 need you the most. They need you to bring them up to Industry 4.0. They need you to network all their machines together. They need you to help their IT departments get their databases set up to collect and analyze data. They need you to help them understand how their machines are performing and when they need maintenance.”
Helping students see their potential and then teaching them the skills they need to realize that potential is what it’s all about for Doug. “I’m loving being an instructor,” he said. He finds it rewarding, and when asked to summarize his experience over the course of the last year, he said, “Everybody enjoyed what they learned. I learned a lot right there with them. We all had a good time. We all came away with something.”
Click below to watch an overview video of Doug Maley’s Smart Technologies and Automation program at the Impact Institute:
About Duane Bolin
Duane Bolin is a former curriculum developer and education specialist. He is currently a Marketing Content Developer in the technical training solutions market.