ORANGE PARK – To move students into the future, the institutions training them have to be ready. St. John’s River State College’s Orange Park campus is doing just that in the new decade.
SJRSC has invested heavily in its engineering technology school with an updated building with new mechanics, robotics and engineering labs along with several new classrooms and faculty offices. The Engineering Technology program is comprised of four different degree or certificate programs: Engineering Technology, Engineering Technology Support Specialist, Mechatronics and Robotics and Simulation Technician.
“Right now, we’re doing the big program with Naval Air Station Jacksonville,” said Jay Paterson, Dean of Workforce and Technical Education. “We’re doing work with employers like that; Georgia Pacific and NAS Jacksonville. We hope to keep that going, expand that and also offer programming to the public so people can start getting their certificates and get the degree who may just be getting out of school and looking for different employment.
“There are steps along the way. You get the traditional two-year degree, but it’s to get people ready for automation and industry automation. What’s going on in automation. The electrical and mechanical aspects of manufacturing. It’s kind of the ability to move from more traditional laborers to more advanced manufacturing positions. “
Upon completion of the college credit certificate program, students earn 27 credit hours towards an engineering degree and a certificate which makes them eligible for certain jobs in the field.
According to the Florida Advanced Technological Education Center, “today in Florida, more than 14,000 different companies and 355,000 people work in the manufacturing field.”
SJRSC is working to provide students with the desire to work in the manufacturing field with the education and tools to be successful in that endeavor.
Funding for the Engineering Technology building renovation and addition was allocated by the state in 2016 and incorporated into the campus master plan for 2017-2022. Florida Job Growth Grant of $1.38 million was secured from the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity in 2017. The multi-year grant helped buy equipment and support personnel. It was supported by local business associations, employers such as Georgia Pacific, and educators.
With the improvements in the engineering technology program, enrollment has increased from 31 students in its inaugural semester in 2018 to 79 students in Spring 2020.
The first Engineering Technology Support Specialist college credit certificates were issued last December to 15 students who completed their programs.
Georgia-Pacific was instrumental in SJRSC getting the grant, which was a major part of the updates in the engineering building and lab.
The Fleet Readiness Center Southeast Apprenticeship Program also can be taken there. It serves as a college/industry partnership. The college credit certificate is earned on campus and in practical application training takes place on Naval Air Station Jacksonville. Approximately 64 students are in this program.
The administration hopes that it continues to grow.