Last summer, Bloomberg Businessweek reported that Reno is starting to look more like Silicon Valley, but the economic growth isn’t from techies alone. Expansion and potential are blooming on the factory floor and distribution side as well.
Northern Nevada is also shaping up as a major distribution hub for manufacturers and Fortune 500 companies including Apple, Amazon, Panasonic, Tesla, and Google recently purchased 1,200 acres for a data center. This fresh economic growth combined with the rising numbers of skilled industrial workers, the low cost of living, and a business-friendly environment has made Nevada a hot destination for companies with west coast distribution or those looking to lower costs.
Truckee Meadows Community College (TMCC), located in northern Nevada, is continually growing and finding new ways to prepare students for jobs in their community. When Tesla announced it was opening its Gigafactory in Reno in the summer of 2014, this became the launching point for TMCC’s Advanced Manufacturing and Robotics program. “We went from having two people enrolled, and possibly canceling the class, to a waitlist of 400 within a couple weeks,” explained Barbara Walden, Director of the Technical Sciences Division TMCC. “We added a number of degrees including the automation and robotics portion, and we started thinking about what is the next step, which is the bachelor’s degree and certification.”
Barbara and her husband, Randy, who also works at TMCC as an instructor in advanced manufacturing, have helped scale the school’s Advanced Manufacturing and Robotics program from the ground up.
To date, TMCC has trained nearly 1,000 Tesla Gigafactory employees. Often they return to TMCC to upscale and learn more about manufacturing, setting themselves up for a management position or a promotion. In fact, Barbara was pleased to report that the number of promotions at the Gigafactory is on the rise.
Students are training for these promising job opportunities on Festo Cyber Physical (CP) Factory equipment. “The equipment we have here is impressive and the students get excited,” said Randy. “When they come to the program, they’re able to see the cyber-physical factory from Festo, the robotics, the storage and retrieval systems, and the PLCs. They’re seeing these high tech systems and the real-world need for what they do and that excites them even at a later age. Even at 40 to 50 years old, they go, ‘I can do this,’ and yes, you just step to it and you can do this.”
As a global leader in automaton, Festo Didactic is able to leverage its expertise from the industry sector to create complete learning solutions and hands-on technical training for faculty to turn their classrooms into smart factories. Barbara comments: “Employers are a key piece. We get our direction from employers and it’s the employers that create the excitement among the students. So the more employers can get involved in coming to our center and connecting with our students, the better chance the students have of completing the program because they see the end goal.”
Watch Truckee Meadow Community College & Festo Didactic ribbon cutting ceremony video here.