OCC’s PLC & Robotic training program helps students gain new skills and pursue new careers.

What do a cook, supply and logistics manager, mental health caregiver, chef, Marine Corp veteran, and automotive worker have in common? For Daniel Domingo Mendez Torres, Ronnell Gilmore, Sang Lee and Janette Taylor, they recently decided to change their career path by enrolling in Oakland Community College’s 14-week  Programmable Logic Controller and Robotic Technician training program in July 2023.

Man with robot in lab

Sang Lee in the OCC’s Robotics Lab.

This short-term PLC and Robotic training program is designed for a small class size of 15 students or fewer, attracting individuals with diverse backgrounds and work experiences. Domingo Mendez Torres, with a four-year tenure as a supply and logistics manager in the Marine Corps, brings his unique expertise. Gilmore has traversed various industries and roles, from salesman to caregiver for mental health patients, customer service representative, and bank teller. Before joining the program, Lee dedicated 23 years to the culinary industry, working as a kitchen helper, line cook, chef, baker, manager, and owner. Taylor, on the other hand, contributed her skills as a materials handler on the assembly line for Stellantis.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (2023), a longitudinal study of individuals born between 1957-1964 held an average of 12.7 jobs during their career1. With good reason, everyone has different motivations for shifting focus to the PLC and Robotic industry. After living in Arizona and the dynamics with a roommate not working out, Gilmore determined he needed to make a change. He had to find a job that would allow him a more stable financial life and a healthier living environment. He had conversations with his uncle and cousin, who both work in the robotics field. They told him about OCC’s training program and encouraged him to apply. “So it was time to make a choice, stay potentially stagnant in an unpleasant environment, or take a chance at something new, and potentially love this new skill just as much as I did sales,” Gilmore said.

studens with robot

Students (L to R) Tom McBride, Janette Taylor, and Domingo Mendez Torres in the Robotics OCC Lab.

Taylor’s decision to move to the robotic field came differently. The first time she saw a robot was while working at Stellantis. She said that robots are increasingly being incorporated into the workplace. “Robots are efficiently getting the job done faster, they’re more precise, and they don’t take vacations or breaks,” she explained. When she saw the flyer about the information session for the program, she decided it was time to pursue the program and make the move into the robotic industry.

Students participating in this training program bring different perspectives to the classroom. OCC program coordinator, Jeffrey Carl explains, “In our PLC and Robotic program, participants from diverse backgrounds come together to complete their training, fostering an inclusive and collaborative learning environment.”

As the only female in the class, Taylor balances being a single parent to a toddler and dedicating time to studying the course material. “Juggling my class work and duties has been challenging and exciting. I’m driven to obtain more skills that will further my career in any way,” she said.

computer lab with students

Ronnell Gilmore & Janette Taylor working together in the OCC lab.

Gilmore found that most of the students in his class have all lived in the metro Detroit area for quite some time. He said that he’s the only student who moved from the southwestern United States to complete the training program. Gilmore feels that besides learning new skills, he’s also learning a new environment and familiarizing himself with the local area. “This entire experience has been life-changing,” Gilmore said,

Lee pointed out that he is older than most of the students in the training, and he’s been able to provide a different perspective and bring a lot of life experiences to the classroom discussions.

OCC partners with Oakland County Michigan Works and the Workforce Intelligence Network (WIN) to offer this training program.

man working

Sang Lee fixing a robot in the lab.

“The WIN One Workforce Industry Infinity initiative is committed to empowering career seekers and regional workers through short-term training. WIN partner Michigan Works! Agencies help identify opportunities, provide tuition support and necessary supportive services to propel participants toward career advancement or the acquisition of industry-recognized credentials leading to new opportunities,” said Kristi Ayers, WIN Workforce Project Manager. She shared that most workforce training participants are eligible for support through Industry Infinity.

The robust PLC and Robotic program at OCC covers more than 15 course subjects in 14 weeks and students can earn multiple industry-recognized credentials like FANUC Cert 1, SACA Micro Credentials, OSHA 10, and more. According to the WIN Data and Research team, there were over 520 job postings across three robotics-intensive positions in the 19-county WIN Region during the third quarter of 2023. These positions include Robotics Engineers, Robotics Technicians, and Electro-Mechanical and Mechatronics Technologists and Technicians. Among the 233 employers that posted for these positions, there were 182 advertised salary observations with a median wage of $30.95 per hour.

“The PLC and Robotic short-term training program not only equips students with essential workplace skills but also offers them the invaluable opportunity to participate in employer tours and engagement experiences, paving the path to a future where innovation and automation meet hands-on expertise,” Carl said.

Classes are held at the Auburn Hills campus, Monday to Friday from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. The goal is to train individuals and after successful completion of the program gain employment in the field.

group photo

OCC’s PLC/Robotics Cohort students in the fall of 2023

Eager to Begin Your Future Today? Reserve your spot for an upcoming information session and delve deeper into the details of OCC’s 14-week training program.

Questions? Contact Education Training Specialist, Le’Anna Sosnoski-Miller at 248.232.4174 or llsosnos@oaklandcc.edu.

About WIN:
The Workforce Intelligence Network for Southeast Michigan (WIN) is a division of SEMCA and a collaborative effort between ten community colleges and seven Michigan Works! Agencies. In partnership with numerous other organizations, WIN is working to create a comprehensive and cohesive workforce development system in Michigan providing employers with the talent they need for success. WIN covers a 19-county area, including Eaton, Genesee, Hillsdale, Huron, Ingham, Jackson, Lapeer, Lenawee, Livingston, Macomb, Monroe, Oakland, Sanilac, Shiawassee, St. Clair, Tuscola, Washtenaw, and Wayne. WIN was founded with the support of the New Economy Initiative, has been recognized as one of the top workforce collaboratives in the nation by the U.S. Department of Labor, and celebrated 10 years of research, engagements, and solutions in August of 2021. For additional information about WIN visit winintelligence.org/about-us/.

About One Workforce Industry Infinity:
Building an Industry Infinity Supply Chain is a One Workforce grant funded by the Department of Labor (DOL), Employment and Training Administration (ETA). The purpose of this funding opportunity is to encourage applicants (WIN Board of Directors) to develop replicable, comprehensive workforce strategies for preparing the workforce for middle-to high-skilled H-1B occupations within key sectors, such as Information Technology (IT), advanced manufacturing, and transportation that are being transformed by technological advancements and automation. Grant funds have been allocated to provide curriculum development funds to WIN Community College Partners to update and create educational programs to upskill job seekers and professionals in the greater southeast Michigan region in related occupations within the industry through January 2025.

Learn more about the author Jessica Knapik by clicking here.

This workforce product was funded by a grant awarded by the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL)’s Employment and Training Administration (ETA). The product was created by the recipient and does not necessarily reflect the official position of DOL/ETA. DOL/ETA makes no guarantees, warranties, or assurances of any kind, express or implied, with respect to such information, including any information on linked sites and including, but not limited to, accuracy of the information or its completeness, timeliness, usefulness, adequacy, continued availability, or ownership. This product is copyrighted by the institution that created it.

1NUMBER OF JOBS, LABOR MARKET EXPERIENCE, MARITAL STATUS, AND HEALTH FOR THOSE BORN 1957-1964, https://www.bls.gov/news.release/pdf/nlsoy.pdf

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