The Latest Educational Programs in Industrial Automation and Manufacturing

August 24, 2021 by Damond Goodwin

What are some of the latest efforts in education to develop the next generation of control and automation engineers and address the skills gap?

The Need For Educational Programs in Manufacturing and Automation

A labor shortage in skilled manufacturing and automation positions over the last several years has led to changes in the way educators and employers plan to mitigate the growing gap. 


An engineer working hands-on with an industrial robot. 


A decline in interest for engineering and STEM-related jobs has helped to make the shortage even more prevalent. Several colleges and universities have developed new ways to help to solve or reduce the growing problem.  

The skills gap can negatively impact the manufacturing sector if proactive measures aren't taken to help increase the skill level and interest in skilled positions. Several schools have recently taken the initiative to start new programs focusing on bringing new skills to the manufacturing and automation industries. The programs differ from traditional engineering programs. 

The colleges involved in this story include:

  • Bismarck State College
  • Georgia Northwestern Technical College
  • Dalton State
  • Youngstown State University 

The four colleges share the same goal, to help alleviate a labor shortage in skilled manufacturing and automation positions. The programs all consist of supporting students looking for hands-on classes with a two-year entry-level course.     


Bismarck State College

Bismarck State College in Bismarck, North Dakota, has introduced a new associate's degree program in Industrial Automation. The program is meant to help students who want to work in positions where a more hands-on approach is needed. Students will learn to build, fix, repair, install, create, and operate automated machines in the program. The program opens in the spring of 2022, and students who take twelve credits or more will receive a 500 USD tuition waiver.  


Video used courtesy of Bismarck State College


Dalton State and Georgia Northwestern Technical College

Dalton State and Georgia Northwestern Technical College (GNTC) have partnered to create new transfer opportunities for students studying in the automation and manufacturing fields. The agreement allows students to transfer into specific Dalton degree programs after completing their associate's degree at GNTC. Advisors will help students with the transfer; the colleges hope to keep the switch between colleges as smooth and easy for students as possible.


Students working in the classroom in the new Automation Engineering Technology program on the Whitfield Murray Campus of Georgia Northwestern Technical College working on robotic demonstration. Image used courtesy of Georgia Northwestern Technical College


"Agreements between Dalton State and our technical college partner Georgia Northwestern, help us better serve the students of our region as well as our local employers," said Dr. Margaret Venable, president of Dalton State. "It is a winning strategy for us all."


Youngstown State University

The Mahoning Valley region has been focusing on creating a workforce development ecosystem. Eastern Gateway Community College is partnering with Youngstown State University as part of the initiative. Youngstown State University recently opened a new 12 million USD, 54,000-square-foot Excellence Training Center to help with the growing demand for workers in the manufacturing and industrial sector. 

The center consists of spaces for working with:

  • Additive manufacturing research and design
  • Industrial robotics and automation training 
  • Eastern Gateway Community College will offer CNC machining 
  • Metrology and CT scanning
  • Industrial maintenance training
  • "Foundry of the Future" which includes advanced mold-making technology


A student at YSU working with a robot. Image used courtesy of Youngstown State University


"We have designed the Center to be a teaching factory, filled with outstanding, cutting edge technology, as well as classroom, lecture, lab and research spaces, where students will learn on real world, advanced machines that they won't be able to get anywhere else," said David Sipusic, YSU associate general counsel for Research and executive director of the ETC.  


A Different Approach 

Last year, Control Automation covered the University of Hartford's efforts to address the skills gap with their new Automation and Mechatronics Program. Several more colleges in the U.S. are now recognizing the need for skilled labor in the manufacturing and automation industries. To help with a growing labor shortage, they have taken different steps with the hope of educating students for these high-demand jobs.  

Ranging from partnerships between colleges to multimillion-dollar facilities, they have the commonality of teaching hands-on skills to students just starting the program, with the ability to continue to more advanced learning if students choose to do so. This will hopefully provide flexibility and more options to new students and career workers alike.  

What do you think about the latest educational efforts in advanced manufacturing and automation?