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Paris Junior College had an Open House on Thursday night to show off a new automated, robotic training system – the college’s latest tool in providing local and area companies with a trained workforce.
“We had probably 100 people — local officials, along with maintenance managers from various plants both locally and from Sulphur Springs, Greenville and other towns,” said Charles Hodgkiss, chairman of the department with the new equipment.
“We wanted to show them what we do. We’ve done training for them before, so they kind of know what kind of product we put out, but this just shows them we’re going to a higher level,” Hodgkiss said.
PJC acquired the robotic training system in November courtesy of $314,520 from the state’s “Jobs and Education for Texans” program designed to bring trained people into the workforce.
Hodgkiss said the students “love it. This is the latest and greatest equipment.”
The training equipment is for electromechanical technicians. It also provides advanced training and continuing education for maintenance and service technicians.
“It’s for just about any of the local industry — anybody doing production at high speeds. It can be diapers or soap,” Hodgkiss said.
“It is our job to produce the workforce locally so they don’t have to recruit all over the country for technicians,” Hodgkiss said.
The new classroom provides a regional training and demonstration facility to cultivate a local workforce serving businesses and industries considering this region for start-up or relocation.
“PJC will begin offering a local manufacturing academy available to all levels of students from high school to college who are enrolled in the program,” PJC president Dr. Pam Anglin said.
“It will also serve currently employed individuals needing customized industry training. This will enhance our strong manufacturing base in the region,” she said.
PJC’s service area has a large concentration of food, dairy, paper products and distribution facilities, Anglin noted.
They are supported by “continuous process” technology, allowing raw materials to be delivered to one end of the facility, and a finished product delivered to a shipping area with little or no human interaction.
This requires efficient cooperation between sensors, conveyors, motors, variable frequency drives, radio frequency identification, and programmable local controllers (PLC’s).
“We have several certificate programs, but almost everything is designed for people to come in and spend roughly a year of training, then go out and go to work, making $20 an hour and more,” Hodgkiss said.
The most basic certificate is the electrical mechanical certificate. Students learn hydraulics, pneumatics, electricity, electronics and PLS’s, preparing themselves for jobs in industrial maintenance, maintaining and repairing machines.
“We also have degree programs, where they can add academic programs and get an associate’s degree. But the majority of our students get the certificate,” Hodgkiss said.
The instructors are Rickey McFadden, who teaches the mechanical side, and Don Harootunian, who teaches the electronics.
“We have advisory committees that are made up of the actual plant people who work on the lines and those that do the hirings. We get together with them once or twice a year so that they know what we’re doing and what we’re training for,” Hodgkiss said.
“If we’re training for a skill that’s no longer needed, then we need to drop that. Or, let’s say there’s a new skill, we can add that training. Technology changes rapidly, and we try to stay up so our students can then go out, ready to go to work, and do a good job,” he said.
Hodgkiss said the city’s newest industry, J. Skinner Modern Artisan Baking, has advised PJC it wants the college to help train its workforce.
“At some time, we’ll meet with them and determine the specific skills they need, so we can provide the training for them,” he said.
PJC also provides workforce training in welding, computer-aided design and drafting, and air conditioning and refrigeration technology.
The training is provided in the Bobby R. Walters Workforce Training Center, on the north side of Clarksville Street, across from the main PJC campus.
By CHARLES RICHARDS