Jerry Faulkner, president of Vol State, spoke about the college’s wishes to build a campus in Wilson County.
“We’re continuing our quest for a location for Vol State in Wilson County,” said Faulkner. “Mt. Juliet was our preference to start with, but the state architect and state building commission says we need to broaden our search area, so we’ll be looking at all of Wilson County for a possible location.”
Faulkner then introduced Tim Dean from the mechatronics department at the college’s Cookeville campus.
According to Dean, the program was started to meet a need within the state for manufacturing positions.
Mechatronics is the blending of engineering fields, including mechanical, controls, electronic and computer engineering, to automate manufacturing, distribution and complex services through multiple industries.
Local manufacturers and industries hire graduates of the program to repair and maintain robotics and computer-aided equipment.
“It’s a lot of stuff that has to be done in industry,” said Dean. “All kinds of stuff. Anywhere you run into automation, this is what we’re dealing with.”
The program uses a work-based learning course to make sure students are ready for the workforce. With the course, the students work for local manufacturers, doing the job they would do as a full-time employee.
“The goal for work-based learning is to put students, before they finish the program, in industry with someone who’s willing to be a mentor for them,” said Dean. “This is almost a no risk for the industry. We’re not telling you that you have to employ them for the entire semester. We’re hoping you do. We’re hoping it works out, but you’re the driver in that.”
According to Dean, the students in the mechatronics program had a lot of success finding jobs with local companies like Nissan and Old Navy.
“Most of the times that I’ve dealt with any type of internship program like that, the student ends up getting a full-time job with the company,” said Dean. “We often can’t place students fast enough.”
At the end of the presentation, Faulkner talked briefly again about the plans to come to Wilson County.
“We are actively seeking a location in Wilson County,” said Faulkner. “Our timeline is as soon as we can.”