Patrick Henry Community College and its partners recently announced that the college will be the first institution in the nation to offer the highest level of Industry 4.0 training available through Festo and NC3. Industry 4.0 refers to advanced manufacturing systems that utilize robotics, automation, and human-machine interfacing. In the new Festo/NC3 Industry 4.0 level three program, students will not only learn to work with the newest innovations in manufacturing technology, they will learn how to adapt to emerging technologies and prepare for jobs that don’t yet exist.
In his opening remarks during the announcement ceremony, Thomas Lichtenberger, the president of Festo Didactic, praised the PHCC.
“After being here and seeing what you’ve accomplished, I am blown away. What you have accomplished here is really unique. … We are very proud to be your partners.”
As a global leader in manufacturing cyber-physical systems, Festo Didactic has been a key partner with PHCC since the inception of the school’s Industry 4.0 program.
Festo Didactic was only one of the many partners that joined the college in celebrating the announcement. Other instrumental partners in the initiative are the National Coalition of Certification Centers [NC3], American Electric Power Foundation, the Harvest Foundation, as well as several local employers and educational entities. Several of these entities provided supportive remarks during the ceremony.
David Cook who was one of the presenters and a representative from the local manufacturing company Mehler Engineered Products expressed that companies like Mehler are actively working to “bring the machinery, equipment, and everything to the next level – the level that it should be.” Cook said that to accomplish this goal, having technicians who can work on these machines at the higher level the equipment requires “is extremely important.”
The college began pursuing Industry 4.0 in August 2018 and has already issued more than 300 certifications. Only a few months after launching level one training, PHCC led the nation into the second level of the NC3/Festo Industry 4.0 training last summer. Now, just over a year since the program’s inception, the college is forging ahead into level three. Officials at the college say that the local demand for a highly-trained workforce is driving the program’s rapid growth.
“Nationally and locally, there are more jobs available in this field than there are qualified applicants,” said the college’s Vice President of Workforce, Economic, and Community Development, Rhonda Hodges. “Typically, as soon as our students complete their training, they get a job. The number of businesses requiring these skills among their workforces grows rapidly. Our local employers need every viable graduate at each available training level.”
For local employers like Mehler Engineered Products, Eastman, Georgia Pacific, and Hanesbrands, an employee with level three skills is an invaluable asset. Employees with level-three skills could enable facilities to modernize processes, reduce downtime, and ultimately increase production. For PHCC’s students, the high value that an Industry 4.0 level three certification commands can open the door to higher-paying jobs and faster career advancement.