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Demand grows for automation engineer technologists

May 13, 2018


Numerous job opportunities for program’s first graduating class

Automation Engineer Technology students learn the fundamentals of hydraulic and pneumatic systems in the Fluid Power class.

Almost every week, employers contact Assistant Professor Hugh Clark looking for automation engineer graduates to fill their open positions. “More employers need workers than we have students in the program,” said Clark. “There are so many great opportunities for well-paying jobs in the growing field of automation engineer technology.”

Exciting career, full of variety

Careers in the field of automation engineering are abundant, and they are never boring. According to Clark, if you watch the TV show “How It’s Made,” “all the machinery you see in the background is the kind of equipment our students learn to work on.”

JCCC’s Automation Engineer Technology is an industrial maintenance program that focuses on plant manufacturing. As a combination of all industrial technology programs, students get experience on both electrical and mechanical equipment, as well as computerization. They learn wiring, hydraulics, welding, robotics and networking.

“Machines break down. Technology is constantly changing. Levels of automation and data are always increasing. And as more and more equipment is networked together between facilities, workers with knowledge and experience will continue to be in big demand,” Clark said.

New grads in demand

Automation Engineer Technology has attracted 42 students since it began two years ago. This May, the program will have its first graduates. Career options for these graduates include:

  • Servicing machinery at large distribution sites like Amazon or FedEx
  • Working on robots at a manufacturing plant
  • Maintaining machines like conveyer belts
  • Troubleshooting PLCs (programmable logic controllers), the digital computer that controls all of a plant’s manufacturing processes

Hands-on and practical

After retiring from the Navy, Shawn Wickliffe could have gone to school on the GI Bill anywhere he wanted. He chose Johnson County Community College and the Automation Engineer Technology program.

“One of the things I appreciate is the faculty’s emphasis on safety and the way they make you think through how you’d handle a situation in the safest manner,” said Wickliffe. “From day one, they provide you with practical information you’ll be able to use when you complete your degree.”

After getting his associate degree, Wickliffe will continue his studies at Pittsburg State University. Wickliffe wants to go into maintenance management, so getting a bachelor’s degree is important to him. “Everything is automated now,” said Wickliffe. “The whole world is headed in that direction.”

Internship launches career

Tyler Goodwin had recently ended his military service and was looking for a new career in which he could get trained and find a job rather quickly. He had experience in some of the automation engineering concepts, so the program was a good fit for him.

“I’ve been very impressed with the instructors,” Goodwin said. “Their attention to detail in lab, hands-on approach to learning and industry knowledge make them one of the best assets of the program. They really are putting great candidates into the job market.”

At a career fair in 2017, Goodwin talked with Kansas City Electrical Supply about a summer internship. The company had never had an intern, but at the end of the summer, they hired Goodwin to work part time during the school year, then full time when he graduated. Because their experience with Goodwin was so positive, the company is bringing on a summer intern once again.

Not only did the internship lead to a great job, Goodwin said, but it gave him the opportunity to see the business as a whole and learn about an industry he’d never before considered. Goodwin’s job will be to review the electrical needs of new construction and remodels and create the list of materials and budget required to meet those needs.

Great future potential

According to the U.S. Department of Education, people with career and technical educations like automation engineer technology are more likely to be employed than their counterparts with four-year academic credentials, and significantly more likely to be working in their chosen fields of study.

For a degree program with great career potential, take a look at Automation Engineer Technology or contact Hugh Clark at 913-469-8500, ext. 3612.