Kirkwood Community College uses Automation Federation’s guidelines

  • April 15, 2015
  • Automation Federation
  • News

April 15, 2015 - In the fall of 2013, Kirkwood rolled out the Automation and Instrumentation Technologies program, aimed at helping students earn great careers in industrial automation and process control. Using industry-guided curriculum combined with practical hands-on labs, students gain experience using programmable logic controllers, variable frequency drives, mechatronics, automated manufacturing and material handling systems, and process control/analytical instrumentation.

“Daily, companies need to come up with practical solutions to optimize throughput and efficiency without sacrificing quality,” said Ben Foley, an assistant professor in the program. “Today, a lot of these solutions include automation and instrumentation technologies. To leverage these technologies to the fullest, you need personnel qualified to install, troubleshoot, maintain and optimize them. This program is designed to help students gain a good understanding of a variety of technologies, processes and solutions, and provide them a solid foundation to build on after they graduate.”

The program is two years in length and students graduate with an Associate of Applied Science degree. Using practical scaled-down labs, students learn more quickly yet at the same time establish a better understanding of the curriculum. Students use the same industrial-rated equipment they will encounter in the field.

“A major concern within manufacturing today is the lack of skilled individuals available within the automation and instrumentation fields,” said Lonny Goodwin of Emerson Process Management, a diversified global manufacturing and technology company based out of Minnesota with a location in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. “This demand will only increase due to the number of individuals approaching retirement age. Kirkwood is on the right path with their new curriculum.”

Program content was developed with thoughtful guidance from an advisory committee made up of industry professionals, and is based on the Automation Federation’s Automation Competency Model framework.

“The Automation Federation serves as a great conduit for collaboration and the exchange of ideas and information,” said Foley. “In the initial stages of development, I was able to easily get in touch with other institutions in order to gain a better understanding of the breadth of similar programs and gather insights in an effort to make our program as effective as possible out of the gate. The automation competency model offered direction and a baseline framework for us to work with as we were developing the Automation and Instrumentation Technologies program and ensured that the content and curriculum being developed met the needs of local industry but also aligned with a standard nation-wide model.”

According to some employers, it can be difficult to find the right person to fill a position. However, the graduates of the program are ready to enter the workforce and hit the ground running.

“Finding qualified graduates for the automation industry can be challenging, especially when looking locally,” said Heidi Strohman, director of recruiting, ESCO Group, a plant automation, electrical construction, power engineering, professional recruiting and safety training company with locations across Iowa. “At ESCO Automation, we feel so fortunate to have a healthy growth plan to fulfill in the next three to five years, and are excited to have Kirkwood as a new resource for finding well-trained employees. The Automation and Instrumentation Technologies program at Kirkwood will produce the talent that we will be looking for to fulfill our needs and help us serve our clients in the best way possible.”

With the most credit programs of any community college in Iowa, Kirkwood Community College boasts more than 25,000 annual college-credit students, while maintaining one of the lowest tuitions in the state. All students are eligible for federal financial aid and the college offers $2.4 million in scholarships each year to students from all walks of life. Kirkwood is a convenient, innovative and visionary educational leader that strives to remain affordable and accessible.



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