Maintenance Mechatronics Curriculum

The Automotive Manufacturing Technical Education Collaborative (AMTEC), comprised of 23 community colleges and 21 industry partners, has developed a general maintenance mechatronics curriculum for the automotive industry that has the potential to also be utilized in other advanced manufacturing job sectors.

Need for Better Training Seeds Curriculum and Assessment Development
AMTEC began in 2004 as an idea and conversation among community college leaders from Michigan, Ohio, Tennessee, and Kentucky who recognized a need for the development of stronger and more modern automotive manufacturing training programs. Since then, under lead partner and fiscal agent Kentucky Community and Technical College System (KCTCS), AMTEC has obtained planning and project development grants from the National Science Foundation (NSF) that has resulted in the creation of a sophisticated general maintenance mechatronics curriculum.

In September 2009, AMTEC was awarded a five-year $5.5 million NSF grant and became a National Center of Excellence for Automotive Manufacturing and one of the current 39 centers of NSF’s Advanced Technological Education Program.

The official general maintenance mechatronics curriculum, that currently has 12 core courses with 62 modules, along with an in-depth, corresponding assessment that measures skills and aptitudes on numerous levels, was created through an unprecedented partnership between competitive community colleges and automotive manufacturers. It is currently in its final design and implementation phase and estimated to be made available in May of this year to all AMTEC partners in a flexible hybrid teaching and learning modality.  However, many AMTEC partners have already aligned their current automotive technician training programs to the new curriculum.

Bluegrass Community  and Technical College and Toyota Internship Program
One of these AMTEC-aligned initiatives is based on a relationship between Toyota Motor Manufacturing and KCTCS system member Bluegrass Community and Technical College (BCTC) in Georgetown, Kentucky that has resulted in a paid internship program for high school graduates who get accepted into an Advanced Manufacturing Technician Program.  Students who are accepted into this program spend three days at the Toyota plant and two days studying under the community college’s Associate in Applied Science Degree program in Industrial Maintenance Technology. As noted on the program’s website “the courses of study are identified by Toyota as the most critical courses necessary to become a top flight multi-skilled maintenance technician in an advanced manufacturing operation.”

“We have pushed the AMTEC curriculum [developed collaboratively between Toyota and BCTC] and integrated it into our in-class internship program,” said Mark Manuel, vice president for Workforce and Institutional Development at BCTC. “We haven’t taught it online yet, but we are working on it through our curriculum approval process so we can also offer the program online for credit.  Both sides [Toyota and BCTC] have looked at what each organization needs, so it is a complete win-win. It is growing, and AMTEC has made that happen.”

Manufacturing Advocacy Group Finds Value in AMTEC Assessments
Additionally,  the corresponding assessment that is aligned to the AMTEC  curriculum has been used by the nonprofit Manufacturing Advocacy & Growth Network (MAGNET) out of Cleveland, Ohio as part of an outreach effort to the Northeast Ohio  automotive industry.

Through a partnership with Cuyahoga Community College (Tri-C), MAGNET was introduced to AMTEC. “We were reinforcing the importance of assessment and the identification of skills gaps for our companies, and AMTEC provided a way to address these priorities to help auto industry OEMs and suppliers, by identifying skills and gaps, and how to close the skill gaps,” said Judith Crocker, MAGNET’s director, Strategic Workforce and Talent Development.

Through funding from the Ohio State Board of Regents, MAGNET and three community colleges [Tri-C, Lorraine Community College and Lakeland Community College] conducted a pilot project in which they “tested the test” by administering AMTEC’s full assessment for maintenance technicians with 13 Northern Ohio automotive manufacturers and supply chain companies.  “The AMTEC assessment sparked our interest because many companies have existing people on their maintenance team who needed to be cross trained. One piece of that is to assess what they have so they can identify the skill gap and then be able to work with the community college to develop the customized training they need,” said Maryann Pacelli, MAGNET senior consultant.

After assessing 162 maintenance technicians from the 13 companies, 50 individuals from eight companies wound up taking part in specific training, paid for through the pilot funds, to help close their skill gaps.  A follow up after the training was completed concluded that all the individuals who participated in the training demonstrated an improvement in the skill areas they needed to advance in line with their employer’s needs and expectations.

Pilot Validates Use in Other Industries
“This small pilot validated for us that this is a tool that can help out companies,” Crocker said. “Our plan going forward is to work with the state to identify some additional resources that could fund us as an nonprofit organization to build on this experience for other industries, not just automotive. Even though the AMTEC assessment was designed for the auto industry, the reality is there are a good number of components of this assessment and also in the curriculum that cut across other industries.”

AMTEC Program Manager Craig Hopkins agrees: “A conveyor is a conveyor. No matter what industry you are in, a maintenance technician has to fix it. A robot is a robot that you have to program to do certain tasks. You can be programming it to build an airplane, for instance. The AMTEC curriculum says nothing about actually building or repairing a car. It is about how to be a multi-skilled maintenance person and how to be educated in that field.”