Mechatronics Is Two-Year College Course That Means Big Money - WTRF 7 News Sports Weather - Wheeling Steubenville

Mechatronics Is Two-Year College Course That Means Big Money For Graduates

Posted: Updated:

When officials confirmed an ethane cracker is planned for the Northern Panhandle of West Virginia, they made one thing clear.

The 200 permanent jobs will require trained, skilled labor, not just walk-ins or high school graduates.

And the skill set they need is a new field called mechatronics.

It's a combination of mechanics, electronics, robotics, welding and more.

And the course is already offered at West Virginia Northern Community College.

Mechatronics involves classrooms and books, and also hard hats and hands-on work.

Educators say the workplace used to take people right out of high school, hire them as general laborers, and maybe they'd work their way up to skilled positions.

Companies don't do that anymore.

You need skills to get in the door--skills that are all taught in a field called mechatronics.

"It brings everything together," says Jessica Roberts,  mechatronics student. "It brings electrical, mechanical, robotics, welding, instrumentation."

Students are all ages and backgrounds.

For instance, 61-year-old Jim Reardon was a former IT person.

"I did computer programming for 31 years," says Reardon. "And due to the economic situation, I got let go, downsized. So I decided to re-engineer myself."

Mechatronics is a new two-year program offered at West Virginia Northern Community College.

The first class, at the Weirton Campus, will graduate in May with five students.

And there are already more jobs than graduates.

The workplace used to be either blue collar or white collar.

Now, there will be a third category--gold collar.

With a two-year degree, these students will reportedly make good money.

"Generally speaking, from the projections we've seen, you're talking about $60,000 and up," said Mike Kuhn, WVNCC's vice president of Workforce Development.

"And I think that's a pretty nice number!" says Ron Matta, instructor.

The course started quietly, but already it is growing.

Next year's graduating class will have 12 students.

And late this summer, the Wheeling Campus will open its new mechatronics class in the former Straub Honda building at 16th and Market.

Already, they say students are taking the math classes to be ready for that class to start in August.