This press release was originally published on SACA’s website.

Michael Cook, Rockwell Automation’s Director Global Academic Partnerships, recently endorsed the Smart Automation Certification Alliance’s efforts to create standards to ensure industry that potential employees possess up-to-date Industry 4.0 skillsets.

Rockwell Automation has also joined SACA as a Platinum Member, which allows them to offer SACA certifications to their employees and provide scholarships to sponsor educational institutions and teachers when they start new certification programs in Industry 4.0. This commitment will impact the standards and future direction of the certifications, and promote the leadership in Industry 4.0 education.

Rockwell-Automation-SACA-Testimonial-Smart-Automation-Certifications“Technology disruption is widening the gap between student learning and industry relevance of learning. At the same time, it is also shortening the shelf life of degrees and opening up variable pathways of learning. To narrow this gap we are actively participating with the Smart Automation Certification Alliance and other industry stakeholders working alongside education to create relevant standards around Industry 4.0 and more importantly access to relevant stackable learning.”

About the Smart Automation Certification Alliance

The Smart Automation Certification Alliance (SACA) is a non-profit organization whose mission is to develop and deploy modular Industry 4.0 certifications for a wide range of industries.

Their vision is to provide highly affordable, accessible certifications that significantly increase the number of individuals who possess the skills represented by these credentials, thereby ensuring that companies have the highly skilled workers they need, and individuals are prepared to be successful in an Industry 4.0 world.

With the help their partners, SACA has created certifications that are industry-driven, developed for industry by industry. They are developed through a rigorous process that begins with the creation of truly international skill standards, endorsed by leading experts in Industry 4.0 technologies throughout the world.

Get involved with SACA

To learn more about the Smart Automation Certification Alliance and explore membership opportunities as an education institution or industrial partner, contact LAB Midwest by filling out the form below:

The Manufacturing Skill Standards Council, the nation’s leading industry certification body for front-line technicians in advanced manufacturing, is pleased to announce its selection of Gateway Technical College in Kenosha, Wisconsin as its first State CPT+ Master Training Center.  

MSSC CPT+ Master TrainingEffective on December 14, Gateway will be authorized to offer training to instructors to deliver MSSC’s hands-on Certified Production Technician Plus (CPT+) program using the highly innovative “Skill Boss” training and testing device invented by Amatrol, the nation’s leading manufacturer of industrial technician training equipment.

Now, instead of using a single national MSSC instructor training center in Indiana, CPT+ Instructor candidates from Wisconsin can now access their professional training at lower cost and less time within their own state. In addition to training CPT+ Instructors, this Master Training Center at Gateway will also offer CPT+ training and testing to individuals enrolled in education and training institutions in Wisconsin that do not yet have a Skill Boss.

According to MSSC Chair, Leo Reddy,

“Gateway Technical College met all of MSSC’s criteria for serving as a state Master Training Center: a strong track record of delivering MSSC courses and assessments; two Skill Boss devices; and three MSSC-trained CPT Instructors who have passed the MSSC’s Three-Day Master CPT+ Training course.”

Gateway CPT+ Master Trainers

Three instructors at Gateway Technical College have been trained and validated to provide CPT+ Master Training:

Tony Lestan, Advanced Manufacturing Technology Instructor

Tony attended the University of Illinois at Urbana/Champaign, earning a BS in General Engineering with a minor in Control Systems.

Tony spent 25 years as a manufacturing engineer, developing equipment and processes for the production of a variety of products.  He has worked with electromechanical devices, printed circuit boards, loudspeakers, high voltage switch gear, and most notably, outboard engines. Previously, he spent 12 years at BRP Evinrude, designing the autonomous guided vehicle platform used for engine assembly and supporting many new engine launches.

Tony also operated a small business integrating control systems utilizing PLC’s and various motor drives, pneumatics, and hydraulics. He has been teaching at Gateway Technical College since 2018 and is excited to serve industry by helping to train others in Advanced Manufacturing Technology skills.

JD Jones, Electro-Mechanical Maintenance Technician Instructor

JD has over 12 years experience in manufacturing as a service engineer, manufacturing engineer and maintenance supervisor. He has worked at leading industrial companies including Chrysler, Vermont American, Federal Mogul and Marposs. Each of these positions have given him a professional and diverse experience on how manufacturing companies run.

JD has done troubleshooting, building and teaching in all his previous positions. He started teaching at Gateway spring of 2009. With his industrial experience, he is able to bring to the classroom many important aspects of manufacturing and maintenance. The best part of his job is being part of a positive influence on students lives and creating a better community.

Justin Steffen, Advanced Manufacturing Technology Instructor

Justin holds an Associate’s Degree in Electrical Engineering Technology from Gateway Technical College and a Bachelor’s Degree in Electrical Engineering from the Milwaukee School of Engineering. He has 10 years of experience working in manufacturing in the Greater Milwaukee area.

Justin has spent 5 years as an Engineering Technician designing and modifying automation equipment in a large manufacturing facility and another 5 years as a Controls Engineer working for various automation integrators in the food and beverage industry and general manufacturing.

Statewide Impact of New CPT+ Master Training Center

The addition of a training center in Wisconsin will make it much easier for instructors across the state to receive training to prepare them to deliver CPT+ curriculum and certifications to their own students. This will help increase the number of students equipped with advanced manufacturing skills entering the workforce.

Gateway Technical College, CEO, Dr. Bryan Albrecht reports, “We are delighted to use this new Master Training Center to strengthen our long association with the prestigious MSSC Certifications.  We are also pleased to have this new opportunity to offer the MSSC top-level, hands-on CPT+ Skill Boss program to instructors and students throughout the state.”

Adds Matt Kirchner, President, LAB Midwest, MSSC’s Training Solution Provider in Wisconsin,  “Gateway Technical College is an excellent location for this new Master Training Center that will offer CPT+ Skill Boss instructor and student training to high schools, community colleges, companies, community-based organizations, military, and incarcerated throughout the state.”

Learn More

To learn more about the CPT+ Master Training program, fill out the form below and our team will be in touch.

Career and Technical Education is the key to bridging the skills gap in the US. The President must recognize this and support CTE initiatives throughout the next four years.

Education is Changing

The 2020 pandemic disrupted so many job markets – like entertainment, hospitality, travel, food service and retail. The crisis left thousands of individuals out of work. Those without a trades-based degree found it very difficult to find new work in an economy that was only serving “essential” workers.

While there are a number of solutions to this problem, education is a great starting point.

Now, more than ever, Career and Technical Education (CTE) is perhaps the most important resource for millions of students to get the skills and training for high-demand, high wage careers. Careers that are stable, even in a worldwide pandemic.

10 Truths about Career and Technical Education

With 2020 being an election year, we’re bound to see different policy decisions regarding education over the next four years. In these discussions, we must be intentional in securing and strengthening our CTE programs nationwide. So, Mr. President, we implore you to understand the following 10 truths about Career and Technical Education as you lead our nation these next four years.

1. Manufacturing is the Lifeblood of the American Economy

Here are some stats about manufacturing in the Midwest:

  • In Michigan, manufacturing is a $102 billion industry, providing 631,000 jobs (that’s 14% of non-farm payroll)
  • In Wisconsin, those numbers are $63 billion and 474,000 jobs
  • Iowa produces $36 billion and 228,000 jobs

But manufacturing isn’t a silo; it impacts every economic sector. For every manufacturing job created, 2-6 additional jobs are created in other sectors. Take a moment to think: would my job exist if manufacturing didn’t exist?

Manufacturing is vital to our nation’s economy and workforce. If we want to lower unemployment rates, increase GDP and give individuals opportunities for success, we need to invest in technical education.

2. Manufacturing is Coming Back to America

A recent article published in Supply and Demand Chain Executive notes, “The disruption in the supply chain has led manufacturers to re-evaluate logistics to mitigate risk by considering onshore or near-shoring solutions, moving production closer to their customer base…”

The COVID-19 pandemic left a huge shortage in supplies, particularly crucial medical PPE and equipment. We’re understanding the necessity of moving manufacturing closer to the point of consumption.

3. If Equity and Diversity are Important, CTE Careers are Too

Manufacturing doesn’t get enough credit for how diverse its workforce is. From age to gender to ethnicity, any production facility will have individuals of all backgrounds.

Manufacturing is also better than average at providing opportunities for growth and promotion. There are great jobs available to individuals who are willing to show up and work hard. And for those who continue their skills-based training, there are always more complex and higher-paying jobs available.

If our President wants to make sure our workforce is diverse and representative, then he must look to manufacturing as an example. Those who pursue Career and Technical Education pathways will find a wealth of opportunity wherever they go, regardless of their background.

4. Opportunities for Career and Technical Education Students are Endless

Manufacturing is one of the few sectors where you can start off sweeping the floor and end up running the company. Or for that matter, stop anywhere along the way and still have a great career.

The wages for skilled trades are impressive – often $45-$60,000 a year to start. That can be achieved with a high school diploma and a few industry-recognized certifications.

CTE programs also offer so many pathways for a student to go down that it can truly fit any type of learner. Individuals following a CTE focus can receive training in their Technical Education coursework in high school, through Youth and Registered Apprenticeships, receive Associates degrees at a community or technical college, get trained right at work and earn credentials, or continue their education all the way through a typical four-year degree program and beyond.

The value is in the number of options, and the simple fact that every option results in a great career.

5. Great Careers Start with Inspiration

The Manufacturing Institute and SkillsUSA performed a study of 23,000 young people: They asked, what inspired your career choice?

All the usual suspects came up on the answers: parents, coaches, social media and friends. But the top answer was surprising.

Kohler Skilled Trades U CampThe number one influencer is their own experiences in middle and high school (64%!). That means it’s up to parents, teachers and policy-makers to ensure students have access to a wide variety of CTE experiences. When a student gets to participate in STEM clubs, get hands-on with engineering experiments and sees firsthand the types of careers available in STEM, she can make an informed choice about her future.

There’s a bit of a domino effect, here. If we don’t provide those experiences in K-8, she won’t take CTE electives in high school, which means she won’t pursue a technical education or a STEM degree either.

It’s our responsibility, even up to the level of the President, to create opportunities for those experiences early and often.

6. Equipping Programs is Expensive

We won’t shy away from it: equipping a lab with the very best in technical education training systems is expensive. If we have outdated labs, students’ skills will fall short when they enter the workforce.

The ROI comes from the fact that students are getting to learn on the very brands and components they’ll see on the job: from PLCs to VFDs, software and more.

The President must ensure schools are able to fund their programs to give students the quality of training they need to be successful in their careers.

7. Some Students Should Earn Bachelors and Masters Degrees

Here’s an unpopular opinion: Pushing for a 100% placement rate of high school students into four-year programs is a misguided goal.

And yet so many districts are using this one data point as a measure of success or failure.

The truth is, we should encourage students to pursue the pathway that will best serve them – whether that be direct to workforce or military service, an apprenticeship program, a technical degree or yes, even a Bachelors degree and beyond.

We will always need engineers, scientists and doctors who go through years and years of schooling to be experts at what they do. But let’s not be misguided into thinking that’s the only measure of success.

8. Jobs in Manufacturing Technology are Really Cool

Can we all agree to dismantle the outdated image of manufacturing and skilled trades? Unfortunately, so many students pass up CTE programs because their history textbook gave manufacturing a bad rap. (This goes back to #5 and why we need to build out labs that inspire students).

Today’s careers in advanced manufacturing are extremely high-tech and exciting. You can work with huge industrial robots, collaborative robots, autonomous vehicles, digital twins, artificial intelligence technology and more.

Does our President truly know how amazing these careers are? If not, how can we expect his administration to invest in our CTE programs?

9. Industry 4.0 is Real

Career and Technical Education students at LIFT Learning Lab in MichiganIndustry 4.0, or the Fourth Industrial Revolution, is alive and well in industry. Companies all over the world are using cyber-physical systems, machine learning, mixed reality and advanced data analytics in their operations today.

Industry is evolving at an exponential rate, giving education quite a job to stay on pace. Education has more barriers to large-scale change than industry, so we need to set a priority on quickly updating our Tech Ed labs and curriculum.

Our President needs to understand the impact Industry 4.0 has on our economy. He needs to make the investment in our Career and Technical Education programs today to ensure that tomorrow, our graduates can continue to secure our nation’s economic position in a competitive global landscape.

10. We Can and Must Scale Quickly

Manufacturing is growing. Yes, even in the midst of a global pandemic. But that’s just one industry CTE students can work in. We’re seeing a growth in automated systems across every sector: from distribution to healthcare to construction. Students on a CTE-focused pathway can gain the skills to work with the latest technology in any of those industries.

We already have a skilled labor shortage in the United States, and that will only grow if we don’t invest in our Career and Technical Education programs today. We need to bolser these programs, and then scale them quickly.

Securing the American Dream

This list may not be exhaustive, but it does hit the most vital points our President needs to know about Career and Technical Education.

Why is it so important? Because the next generation of students needs our help to give them the best chance at a rewarding career.

We believe our students deserve to achieve the American Dream. The American Dream says anyone can pursue a career they’re passionate about – to have the resources, funding and opportunity to achieve that goal. Career and Technical Education programs at our schools are perhaps the best way for our students to do this.

We must all align on this mission. And that starts with you, Mr. President.

Industrial employers are revamping their workforce training programs to remain competitive in a world of advanced manufacturing.

We’re Never “Done” Training

In the 1970s, the average manufacturing employee received over 100 hours of on-the-job skills training every year. Today, that number is closer to 5 hours – and it’s everything OSHA tells us we’re required to train. Why is there such a discrepancy?

The 1970s saw the 3rd Industrial Revolution: Automation. For the first time, computers entered the manufacturing scene. PLCs, robots and CNC machines changed the way workers did even the most basic tasks. 100 hours of training was a minimum to keep incumbent employees on track with the new equipment being used.

Those training hours waned, but now we’ve reached another milestone that demands we reskill our workforce: Industry 4.0. Our automated processes are getting smarter. Smart sensors, data analytics devices, predictive maintenance, artificial intelligence, extended reality, digital twins, cyber-physical systems…these are the emerging technologies that your workforce needs to understand to remain competitive.

On top of that, the skills gap means your workforce needs are growing faster than you can find people to fill them. If you’re going to be hiring individuals with no manufacturing background, you’ll need a turn-key training program.

Training shouldn’t ever end. Organizations with a culture of continuous learning will grow, adapt and thrive. But getting started isn’t always easy. So we’ve put together a set of guidelines for how to develop your workforce training plan.

Before you begin: Plan

Most training programs that fail began with great intentions and lofty goals, but no clear roadmap or way to measure success.

So before you begin drawing up a plan, make sure you:

  1. Collaborate: Organization leadership, human resources, department managers and team leads all have different perspectives and should be involved in the planning process.
  2. Get support: See what your local technical/community college offers in their Business and Industry department.
  3. Don’t reinvent the wheel: There are plenty of curriculum resources designed for industrial training.
  4. Plan, do, check, act.

Once you have buy-in from leadership and employees, it’s time to create your workforce training program. The following are the 5 keys you’ll need to craft a successful, long-lasting program.

The 5 Keys to Industrial Training Success

1. Scope

A great way to get started is to begin small. Start with a pilot group of individuals from one department, refine the process, then scale training to the rest of your employees.

Scope and sequence for workforce trainingTo begin, create a scope and sequence for each department. In other words, outline the specific competency areas and skills your employees will need for roles within that department. These could include…

  • AC/DC electrical
  • motor control
  • fluid power
  • process control
  • electronics
  • PLCs
  • …and more.

And don’t forget about safety, lean, quality assurance, measurement…

Then, organize those into a sequence of skills that build upon one another. This method creates a clear pathway and avoids resources wasted on overtraining.

Once you develop a template that works with your pilot group, you can replicate and tweak the process for each department. For example, your maintenance department will need a different set of skills than assembly or welders or machinists, etc. Each employee within those departments will also need different levels of training, depending on experience, role, goals, etc.

2. Relevant

Remove the waste of overtraining. There are plenty of skills you could train, but are they pertinent to this employee’s role and career pathway? Targeted training means you get the best return for the time your employees spend learning. It also means your employees get energized since they can take their coursework and apply it directly to their job that very day.

Speaking of relevant – make sure your training content is engaging and interactive. People who work on the industrial floor are often hands-on, kinesthetic learners. They won’t remember much if you sit them through a series of videos or presentations. Opt for interactive eLearning with skill interactions, virtual simulators, knowledge checks and audio cues.

Then,  add hands-on learning delivered on equipment designed specifically for industrial skills training. With this combination, your learners will easily make the connection between what they’re learning in the classroom and what they’re doing on the job.

3. Measurable

Shadowing incumbent workers is a good way to get a new hire comfortable on the production floor, but it can’t replace a data-driven training program.

Workforce TrainingHere are some ways you can track training data:

  1. eAssessment: Skill assessments determine where a learner is already proficient and where the gaps are. Now, you can train only where you need to.
  2. Pre- and post-quizzes: Pre-quizzes set a baseline, then you can track knowledge gained in each individual session with post-quiz results.
  3. Hands-on skills: Your employee just learned about series and parallel circuits. Now, he’s tasked with creating one of each to power a lightbulb on an AC/DC electrical trainer. This gives you immediate feedback for whether the skill has been mastered or needs additional work.
  4. Industry-recognized credentials: When your employees sit for and earn industry-recognized credentials, you can feel confident that your training program is effective, and your employees feel validation for their newly-earned skillset.

These data measuring practices are great for onboarding new employees as well as upskilling incumbent workers.

4. Milestones

Let’s say an employee has been working for you as an Operator for a year. Now she wants additional training to become a Production Systems Specialist – a role that comes with clear new responsibilities and pay. With a scope and sequence plan, you tell her it’ll take an additional 640 hours of training, with each hour broken down into specific modules of learning. 

Any employee will appreciate seeing the end goal and pathway to achieve it. However, 640 hours of additional training is going to be overwhelming for an employee. To help her feel that goal is achievable, add milestones along the way.

Micro-credentials are a perfect milestone. The Smart Automation Certification Alliance (SACA) awards specialist-level micro-credentials for really specific skilled areas. A micro-credential amounts to about 40 hours of training. And they’re stackable, so once your employee earns a whole set of micro-credentials, she can be awarded a full specialist-level Industry 4.0 certification to go along with her new role.

5. Adaptable / Flexible

Why do all the work of creating an employee training program when you offer tuition reimbursement?

The number one reason employees don’t take advantage of employer tuition reimbursement plans is that they don’t have the time. Rigid education schedules interfere with work, family, extracurriculars and the many commitments we all have on a daily basis.

Providing training at work will eliminate a vast majority of this obstacle. But we also know you can’t just shut down production for your employees to sit through 8 hours of training a week.

Instead, provide a flexible training schedule that can be done during dedicated hours at work and at home. Online eLearning provides just that flexibility.

Note: 2020 has brought about massive changes to education, forcing schools to find more flexible ways to teach. This has the potential for long-term changes to our education system, making courses at technical and community colleges more adaptable than ever before. This could be great news for employers to create new collaborations with their local college.

Just Get Started

Research, planning, testing…these are all important. But don’t let perfection be the enemy of your company’s progress.

Create a plan using the guidelines above, then just get started.

Supply Chain Automation is Growing Worldwide

The global supply chain is becoming more complex, automated, efficient and vital than ever before. Industry 4.0 technologies have disrupted every sector of the economy, and the global supply chain is part of this transition.

Every organization in the world depends on the work of individuals who are highly skilled in supply chain automation technologies.

New Supply Chain Certification

Now, students and technicians can receive industry-validated certifications for their skills in supply chain automation with the CT-SCA (Certified Technician in Supply Chain Automation) credential. The CT-SCA was developed by the Manufacturing Skill Standards Council (MSSC) in response to a growing demand for skilled technicians.

Supply Chain AutomationThe National Center for Supply Chain Automation (NCSCA) is an NSF-funded organization that did extensive research into the growing rate of automation in supply chain, distribution and logistics sectors. MSSC collaborated with NCSCA to ensure the new certifications meet the needs of industrial employers worldwide.

The new certification can be broken down into three distinct focus areas: Equipment Maintenance (CTSCA-EM), Equipment Repair (CTSCA-ER) and Network Repair (CTSCA-NR). These are ISO 17024 accredited certifications.

Additional contributing partners in the development of the certification include the Material Handling Industry (MHI), NOCTI, and the Material Handling Distributors Association (MHEDA).

New Training System for Upskilling Technicians

After developing the certification, MSSC worked with Amatrol to design the Skill Boss Logistics, a bench-sized sorting and distribution system that comprises many of the components and skills used the logistics and distribution sectors.

This system can teach and assess over 100 hands-on skills that today’s technicians need in supply chain automation, including operation, equipment maintenance and repair.

For an in-depth look at what the Skill Boss Logistics system can do, watch this webinar on-demand.

Upcoming Webinar

We will be hosting a free webinar on Wednesday, October 14th on Supply Chain Automation. ATS-LAB Midwest President Matt Kirchner will be joined by a leadership panel from these organizations, including:

  • Steve Harrington – Industry Liaison, National Center for Supply Chain Automation
  • Neil Reddy – Executive Director, Manufacturing Skill Standards Council
  • Paul Perkins – President, Amatrol

Attendance to the webinar is free of charge and open to the public. Click here to register. Unable to attend live? A recording will be emailed to everyone who registers for the event.

3D printing is a core Industry 4.0 technology, and one company has developed a unique process to print metal 3D parts faster, stronger and more accurately than ever before.

We see the value in 3D printing for schools to teach materials science and engineering principles in authentic, industrially-relevant projects. Xact Metal, located in Penn State University’s Innovation Park, is positioned perfectly to understand the value in providing these relevant learning experiences to students.

A Better Way to 3D Print Metal

Many metal 3D printers use fused deposition modeling (FDM), also known as fused filament fabrication. This process uses a continuous filament strand of material to print the part. However, to accomplish this with metal materials, you need a specialized 3D printer, a wash/debinder, and a sintering oven. That means higher equipment cost, longer print times, and extra space and additional construction.

The Xact Metal process removes these barriers to accessible 3D printing. Known as metal powder-bed fusion printing, the XM200C uses a fiber laser to melt thin layers of metal powder on the print bed, one at a time, to create parts directly from a 3D CAD model.

Xact Metal XM200C for Metal 3D PrintingMetal powder-bed fusion can print complex parts at tight tolerances while reducing the cycle time by about 50% from FDM printing. Plus there’s no shrinkage of parts like you get with FDM, so you can be confident that your parts will come out just as designed.

New Tech Leads Metal 3D Printing Market

Xact Metal went a step further, innovating the movement of the laser itself. Most printers will use complex rotating galvanometer mirrors and F-theta lenses. With a galvanometer, the laser approaches the powder bed at different angles, resulting in a higher margin of error.

Xact Metal designed a new system called Xact Core, which uses a high-speed gantry system platform that allows light, simple mirrors to move quickly and consistently above the powder bed on an X-Y axis. This allows for a constant laser angle across the whole build plate.

Easy-to-Use Interface Makes Printing Simple

An interactive graphic user interface (GUI) makes loading files, setting up builds and monitoring the build process quick and easy. Mounted on the printer itself, the modern touchscreen monitor is designed so that even beginners can navigate their prints easily.

Users can set up their print right from the interface, optimizing parameters and seeing an overview of every print spec. The build will then go into a queue, where users can see each print set up and waiting. Once running, users can monitor print data in real-time, such as bed temperature, chamber temperature, and pressure and oxygen percentage.

They can even watch the print in real-time via two cameras that stream to this GUI. Check out the inside view of the print in action!


Request an Xact Metal Quote

For more information, technical specs and pricing on the Xact Metal XM200C 3D metal printer, fill out this form below. Our team will be in touch shortly!

As manufacturing becomes more automated, traditional skills like welding are following suit. There will always be a need for highly-skilled welders, but as more companies invest in robotic welding, individuals with both skillsets have an added advantage.

To help train these individuals, FANUC Robotics has teamed up with Miller and APT Manufacturing Solutions to offer the world’s first fully-integrated weld CERT cart just for education.

View the product flyer for all the details.

FANUC Robot Features

FANUC Miller Welding CERT Cart

FANUC Miller Welding CERT Cart

The robotic arm used is a FANUC ARC Mate 50iD/7L, which is meant for high speeds and extra long reach. The standard IP67 rating gives it the versatility to work in a variety of different harsh manufacturing environments, like dusty and wet areas.

FANUC’s ArcTool software provides additional learning in a virtual environment. This will help students get comfortable programming and operating the welding robot before they get hands-on with the real cell.

Miller Welding Features

The Miller power source includes the cutting-edge automated welding features you’d expect from the world’s leading welding manufacturer. For example, Versa-Pulse and Accu-Pulse instantly make adjustments to handle weld tacks, large gaps and inconsistent parts. The result? Higher quality welds and fewer weld defects.

Teach robotic welding and Industry 4.0 technology with another great feature: Miller’s Insight Core data analytics technology. With Insight Core, vital production metrics like amps, volts, wire feed speed, arc on time and more are automatically recorded to help your students improve their skills. This data is available online, and the platform allows students to monitor, manage and manipulate the data for actionable improvement.

CERT Program Features

This robotic weld cell is part of FANUC’s ARC Certified Education Robotic Training (CERT) program, which includes a number of incredible bonuses available only to education. Such features include:

  • FANUC ARC CERT gift-in-kind package for qualified schools
  • The same R30iB Mate plus controller used across FANUC’s robotic platform
  • Advanced academic software/ARC bundle
  • ARCTool student certificate program
  • Optional iRVision

Schools all over the country have taken advantage of FANUC’s CERT program to train up students in industrial robotics technology. Now, you can upgrade your program with a robotic weld cell!

Learn more about the FANUC-Miller Weld CERT Cart

Our team would love to chat with you more on this product. If you’re interested in more details, want to know how it can fit into your program, or see if you qualify for the CERT package, send us a message below. We’ll be in touch shortly.

We’re thrilled to announce new learning systems from Amatrol that train HVAC skills for job readiness!

HVAC Skills are in High Demand

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the need for heating, air conditioning, and refrigeration mechanics and installers through 2028 will grow by 13%. This is rated as “much faster than average” for all job markets.

Why is there a growing need for HVAC (and R) technicians? There are plenty – so we’ll list a few of the most impactful:

  1. The market is broad: Every residential, commercial, industrial building in the world needs an HVAC system. New construction will always bring about HVAC needs, and existing buildings require maintenance and repair.
  2. HVAC systems are getting smarter: HVAC technology is evolving at an impressive rate. New smart systems connected to the Internet of Things (IoT) can use data to automatically make adjustments, or individuals can reprogram their systems from a mobile app. It will take a skilled technician to install and maintain these new systems – someone who understands both OT and IT.
  3. HVAC systems are getting greener: HVAC systems are getting increasingly efficient, reducing energy consumption and cost for the end user. As users upgrade their systems, technicians will be needed to install and maintain them.

HVAC is a field where there will always be a need for workers. It’s a great career choice, and technical training programs who have specialized courses will find learners ready to work.

New HVAC Training Systems

Train HVAC skills with the Residential Heat Pump Troubleshooting Learning System

Residential Heat Pump Troubleshooting Learning System (T7100)

Amatrol, the world’s leading developer of technical training equipment, recognized these trends. In response, they’ve just released a new line of HVAC training equipment that will prepare learners for a rewarding career. We’re thrilled to share these with you!

R-134a Refrigerant Recovery & Charging (T7031)

Teach critical hands-on skills for refrigerant recovery and charging for R-134a refrigerant (Tetrafluoroethane) with the T7031 trainer. Learners will work with authentic industrial components, including: manifold gauges, submersible cooler, a recovery machine, temperature probe, filter dryer, low side liquid charger, vacuum pump, and micron vacuum gauge.

View the T7031 Product Flyer

R-410a Refrigerant Recovery & Charging (T7032)

Teach skills for refrigerant recovery and charging for R-410a refrigerant (commonly known as Puron) with the T7032 trainer. Learners will work with authentic industrial components, including: a recovery machine, manifold gauges, submersible cooler, temperature probe, filter dryer, liquid vaporizer, low side liquid charger, vacuum pump, and micron vacuum gauge.

View the T7032 Product Flyer

Residential Mini-Split Heat Pump (T7130)

This new HVAC training system from Amatrol teaches students to work with residential ductless “mini-split” systems. Authentic industrial components include a heat pump condenser, evaporator unit, thermostat, panel-mounted gauges, and a condensate pump.

View the T7130 Product Flyer

Residential Heat Pump Troubleshooting (T7100)

HVAC technicians need to be able to troubleshoot faults in systems. This new trainer teaches these skills for residential HVAC systems that use a heat pump and traditional ducting. True industrial components are used on this system, including: a heat pump condenser, heat pump air handler, Wi-Fi enabled thermostat, fuse box, ducting and manifold.

Troubleshooting is done with Amatrol’s specialized troubleshooting software: FaultPro. This electronic fault insertion system is used on many of Amatrol’s trainers and will help learners solve the types of problems they’ll encounter on the job.

View the T7100 Product Flyer

Train HVAC with eLearning Curriculum

As always, Amatrol’s training systems are backed by curriculum that teaches the theory and practical knowledge needed to apply HVAC skills in the workplace. It’s vital that students understand the basic theory of HVAC technology and principles before progressing to working with the hands-on equipment.

Amatrol’s eLearning features interactive, multimedia graphics, videos and simulations to directly correlate knowledge to job skills. Courses include pre- and post-quizzes, plus exercises and knowledge checks within each lesson to ensure the learner is engaged with the content.

Get a Quote Today

If you’d like more information on any of these HVAC training systems, associated curriculum, or want a quote, please fill out the form below and we’ll be in touch shortly.


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2020 will be remembered as a transformational year for education. The way classes are taught (how…when…where) will undergo a major transformation this fall. As an educator, you’re faced with the challenge of delivering the same quality of content in a completely new way.

Which means you now need a whole toolbox of new methods for teaching that can account for:

  • Social distancing and safe practices
  • Remote and distance learning
  • The ability to teach hands-on skills
  • Customizing content delivery for students who face unique challenges with learning or technology

An Opportunity to Enrich Learning

It will be a challenge to adapt your program to new schedules and standards. But with every challenge comes an opportunity. In this case, it’s an opportunity to reach your students in new and engaging ways that will enrich their learning experience.

It’s an opportunity to begin using interactive eLearning that engages more than a textbook, virtual simulations that are familiar to a student who grew up around technology, one-on-one instructor time via video, smaller group projects that give each student a higher level of engagement, and curriculum plans customized to each student depending on their learning level and speed.

The more of these tools you add to your toolbox, the more prepared you’ll be for any outcome. And the better your students’ learning experience will be.

The 7 Elements of Distance Learning

We’ve compiled a list of the 7 elements every instructor should add to their course structure this fall. These elements consider distance learning and in-person learning. The ideal course would use a blend of these methods, preferably in the order we’ve demonstrated below. It creates a great progression from introducing a concept to the student owning the skills learned.

(BONUS: We’ve put together a video demonstrating how each of these would play out in a live classroom setting. You can watch it here.)

1. Live Lecture

The lecture will always be a standard tool for teaching. You may get to continue this in your classroom this fall – though perhaps with desks more spaced apart. You also may need to deliver these remotely. In that case, popular platforms like Zoom, GoToMeeting, Skype and Webex work great for sharing presentations with a large number of students at once. Just be sure to get to know the platform’s functions and features well before school starts.

Best practice tip: When live streaming, make sure you have a distraction-free background with good lighting. Bonus tip: Cordless headphones are a great way to ensure your students can hear you no matter how you turn or move around, and it’ll keep you in hearing range of them as well.

2. eLearning

While most schools used eLearning minimally in the past, the majority will have to transfer to eLearning this fall. Far more engaging than a standard textbook, eLearning provides more interactive learning that can be customized to each student. The best quality eLearning includes dynamic visuals and regular interactions, knowledge checks, quizzes, and imbedded simulations.

Best practice tip: Go for quality. We know you’re being inundated with eLearning product offers, but don’t let your students’ learning suffer due to low-quality software. eLearning is here to stay, so invest in curriculum that aligns to your program’s goals for the long-term. We offer the highest-quality eLearning: Check it out here.

3. Instructor Demonstration

This is already common practice if you’re in a lab with students: Once you’ve gone through the theory of a topic, you’ll demonstrate these principles on lab equipment before sending students off to their lab assignments.

In a distance learning environment, you can do the same thing with a little help from your webinar platform and some simple camera work. We suggest investing in a portable camera and tripod. Most will come with a USB connection so you can run everything from your computer with ease. A tripod will help your video frame look professional no matter where you need to set up.

Best practice tip: For an even better student experience, go for a dual-camera setup. A wide angle shot of the instructor and full equipment provides a frame of reference. And adding a second camera for a close-up on the area of focus will allow students to see all the details they need.

4. Virtual Skill Development

Access to physical lab space and equipment may be more restricted this year, so virtual trainers and simulators are a must-have. This is especially important for kinesthetic learners who retain knowledge by doing. When looking into virtual trainers, ask questions like: Does this have curriculum tied to it? Does it incorporate authentic industrial components from brands seen in the workplace? It is open-ended so students can explore further?

We’ve out together a list of virtual simulators we’d recommend. Check out the Top 10 Virtual Trainers for Industrial Skills.

Best practice tip: Pair virtual skill development with hands-on skills whenever possible. A progression from eLearning to virtual skills to hands-on skills targets different learning centers in the brain and will help the knowledge stick for the long-term.

5. Instructor-Student Interactive Skills

As an instructor, you want to be sure your students truly grasp the knowledge they’ve learned in an applicable way. This element is ideal for a distance learning situation where a student can’t be in a physical lab. Thanks to technologies like Zoom, you can virtually connect with your students, set up a camera to show the equipment, and have the students coach you through the steps to complete skills.

Best practice tip: Ideally, these would be one-on-one interactions between the instructor and student. Wherever possible, minimize the number of participants in these groups so you’re getting high-quality interaction with your students. It will also allow you to better gauge how well each individual has mastered the topic.

6. Hands-On Skill Development

While virtual training and eLearning are necessary new tools in a distance learning environment, nothing can replace physical lab time for developing hands-on skills. Each school should develop its own standard policies for social distancing and regular sanitization of lab space and equipment. Students are already taught to wear necessary PPE in the lab, so additional safety practices should flow naturally into your lab procedures.

Best practice tip: Socially-distanced labs will have less students per group working on equipment that is more spaced out. You may need to invest in more equipment to meet these new requirements. Portable training systems are a great option for this: they’re space-saving, affordable, and mobile.

7. Portable Rotational At-Home Skills

Speaking of portable training systems, these are disrupting the way we teach technical education in multiple ways, and a rotational at-home model is one of them. Students can “check out” a piece of equipment the way they would borrow a library book. The student completes assigned hands-on skills at home, then returns the equipment to school. It is then sanitized by school faculty and assigned to another student to be taken home.

The student can video conference with you to demonstrate their skills, record themselves performing the skills, or even go through the skill live in a full-class meeting. There are many ways to ensure your students are learning at home, so focus on what works best for you!

Best practice tip: Be sure the portable trainers you invest in can withstand this frequent exchange. Is it made with durable material? Are there many small, loose pieces that could get lost? Does it come with handle and wheels for portability? Is there a custom case that can be made for it?

Custom Support for Your Program

It’s not easy to implement so many changes into your program in such a short amount of time. New technologies and practices can be daunting. For support on any of these methods, pricing on eLearning and virtual trainers, and product offerings for hands-on equipment, we’re your experts. Fill out the form below and we’ll be glad to help!

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As schools create their hybrid and distance learning plans for fall, many are concerned about subjects that require lab equipment or hands-on skill training. STEM and Technical Education students in particular may have their lab time limited. Since many of these students are kinesthetic learners, how can we provide those same interactive opportunities remotely?

Virtual trainers & simulators

The Top 10 Virtual Trainers and Simulators

While virtual training will never be of the exact same caliber as hands-on training, it’s an incredibly efficient tool for students to learn authentic industrial skills. Those who apply knowledge on a virtual trainer are more ready to step into a physical lab than those who have completed eLearning alone.

There are many virtual trainers and simulators available to educators. We’ve compiled the top 10 virtual trainers for industrial skills below.

View the Top 10 Virtual Trainers in PDF form

1. Amatrol Electrical Trainer

This “virtual sandbox” has a wide variety of authentic custom electrical components. Students can use these to create any electrical circuit. They’ll also be provided with schematics, diagrams and instructions. The trainer can be used in alignment with Amatrol’s electrical eLearning courses, so students can directly apply their knowledge.

2. Automation Studio

This is the most powerful simulation software for industrial programs on the market. In fact, it’s used by industry to test and tune circuit designs before they’re built in the physical plant. With Automation Studio, students can build electrical and fluid power circuits using components from the most widely-used brands. Watch a video of this software in action!

3. Amatrol Fluid Power

Like the Amatrol electrical trainer, the fluid power trainer is a “virtual sandbox” filled with authentic components that allows students to build their own hydraulic and pneumatic circuits. The system even allows incorrect circuit design and connections so the student must troubleshoot and learn from mistakes.

4. Quanser Interactive Labs

Quanser’s Interactive Labs (QLabs) is a virtual simulation of controls and robotics hardware. The simulated hardware shows interactive digital twins of Quanser’s engineering trainers – like robotic arms, pendulums and half-quadrotors. Students can change parameters and track hardware motion on live graphs. The software even comes with pre-designed lessons, lab experiments and knowledge checks. It’s available for both desktop and mobile devices. Watch a video of this software in action!

5. Amatrol Electric Relay Control

Amatrol’s electric relay control trainer lets students see the functions of relay logic control circuits that are used in industrial, commercial and residential applications. The simulator includes logic elements like AND, OR, NOT, NOR and NAND. Ladder diagrams included with the trainer help learners connect the circuit with the design and schematics they learn about in their coursework.

6. Amatrol PLC Simulator

This interactive system simulates a conveyor and punch press system with realistic graphics and user interface. Eight different scenes take the student through each component of the system, including operator stations, a tank, conveyor, punch presses and motors. The student learns to develop PLC programs for each component, then connect them to operate the entire system as a senior capstone project.

7. LJ Create Hybrid Vehicles Trainer

LJ Create Hybrid vehicle virtual trainerThis realistic hybrid vehicle simulator shows the vehicle in motion alongside live statistics. Students can choose different views of the vehicle, like cutaway and powerflow, to see the inner workings of the car as it runs. Learners can also adjust and monitor components like gears, fuel tank, battery and more to see how they affect the vehicle’s performance.

8. FANUC NC Guide

FANUC is the world’s leading manufacturer of CNC controls, permeating over half of all industrial machines. NC Guide is authentic CNC software from FANUC that can run from a PC. The software allows students to create both milling and turning programs using the most advanced FANUC CNC controls. They can see their program in operation and make adjustments – it operates exactly like a real CNC control.

9. Amatrol CNC Simulator

This CNC simulator works alongside eLearning curriculum to put knowledge into action. Students can use the trainer’s step-by-step instructions to create a CNC program. Its open-platform design also lets them create an original program from scratch. Students can then make adjustments to G & M codes using a dialogue screen alongside a simulated model of a CNC machine. They can then run their program and the simulator will create their part, highlighting each line of the program as it’s operated.

10. FANUC Roboguide

Teach robotics technology on the world’s leading industrial robotics platform. Roboguide’s software includes everything a student needs to learn robotic programming and operation. Even if a classroom has a FANUC education robot, this software is an excellent supplement. It can reach multiple students at once. Plus, students can program different types of industrial robots, from simple arms to complex workcells they might not see in the classroom.

Virtual Trainers from LAB Midwest

Want more information about any of these virtual trainers? Fill out the form below, and our team will be in touch!

Industry 4.0 Instructor Training

This summer, we’re offering the first ever virtual instructor training for Industry 4.0 Fundamentals. Dozens of instructors across the Midwest have been successfully prepared to deliver the Industry 4.0 Fundamentals content to their students through this training.

Download the Virtual Instructor Training PDF

While this year has been moved to a virtual model, the knowledge and skills gained by trainees will remain the same. They include:

  • Familiarization with Industry 4.0 concepts and technologies
  • Introduction to courses in mechatronics, industrial controls, industrial robotics, and the industrial internet of things (IIoT)
  • Opportunity to earn the Smart Automation Certification Alliance (SACA) Industry 4.0 Associate credentials
  • In-depth training on eLearning software and learning management system

Distance Learning Modeled

One thing is certain about classes in fall: they won’t look the same as they always have. Changes may include more remote learning, online coursework, flipped classrooms, smaller classrooms, etc. For many schools, these changes will utilize new tools and technologies that teachers will need some familiarization with prior to starting the school year.

This summer training will provide some of that familiarization. We’ll model distance learning methods and allow instructors to practice implementation for the fall. Some of the methods trainees will see include:

  • Rotational model of hands-on learning
  • Engaging with interactive eLearning and online assessments
  • Using virtual trainers and simulators to teach authentic Industry 4.0 skills
  • Student interaction with hardware via instructor-led equipment demonstrations

Summer Training Schedule

Four Industry 4.0 introductory courses will be covered over 2 weeks. Training will take place 8am – 11:30am CST.

June 15 – 19: Mechatronics and Industrial Controls

June 22 – 26: Industrial Robotics and the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT)

Register for training by filling out this form:

Scholarships for training are available to qualifying institutions; please see the registration form to apply.

Questions about Virtual Instructor Training?

Fill out the form below, or email

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Written by Matthew D. Kirchner

The Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act, signed into law on March 27, 2020, constitutes the single largest stimulus bill in U.S. history. Included in its 880 pages is the $13,952,505,000 Higher Education Emergency Relief Fund. Highly formula-driven in their allowable uses, the much-welcome funds present a puzzle of sorts for institutions of higher education (IHEs) as they consider their strategies to put the funds to best use.

While it certainly will not offset the entire negative financial impact that COVID-19 has had and will have on education, the funding comes as good news to IHE leaders as they plan their paths forward.

Matt Leaf is the Academic Dean at Hennepin Technical College in Brooklyn Park, Minnesota, where more than five thousand students are being prepared for careers in technical fields. Leaf stated,

“The CARES Act will have a great impact on technical education. We are excited to receive the funding and, while it will only cover a small portion of the costs we are incurring due to COVID-19, it is certainly better than nothing.”

Better than nothing in the eyes of many, and while a great number of IHEs are still in the process of applying for the funding, others are well down the path of determining allocations and putting the funds to work in their institutions.

Early discussions with IHE leaders demonstrate that the use of funding will likely fall into a combination of three broad categories: As required by the CARES Act, at least fifty percent of funds must be expended on emergency financial aid and grants to students. Many IHEs are allocating the remaining funds to a combination of additional student support and offsetting revenue losses and costs incurred from shuttering campuses and moving to distance learning. Finally, leading institutions are utilizing funds to innovate around digital and remote learning models to the extent allowed by the requirements of the Act.

Student Support

Stacy Riley serves as Vice President of Student Services and Enrollment Management at Gateway Technical College in southeastern Wisconsin where the effects of COVID-19 were quickly felt by the school’s 20,000 students. Face-to-face activities at Gateway’s nine campus and center locations were suspended on March 16, 2020, and instruction was moved to a distance learning model just days later.

“We serve a wide array of students,” Riley notes. “We have made every effort to support our students, focusing on the immediate negative impact that COVID-19 has had on their lives.

“We really worked hard to understand how the change in our educational offerings has affected them for the spring. The CARES Act enabled us to help our students with expenses such as food, housing, rent, healthcare, childcare and other related expenses.”

Emergency relief funds have already been provided to more than 400 of Gateway’s students. This has enabled them to continue their education in spite of the financial hardships due to significant changes to delivery of instruction brought about for many of them by COVID-19.

Offsetting Lost Revenue and the Transition to Digital Learning

The CARES Act mandates a minimum of 50% of Higher Education Emergency Relief funds received by an IHE must be dedicated to emergency financial aid and grants to students, but schools have more flexibility in how the remaining 50% is allocated. To that end, IHEs are thoughtfully considering how to utilize the portion of funding that allows for more discretion.

While tuition, government grants, investment income and appropriations are all recognizable drivers of their operating revenue, IHEs also rely significantly on other sources of income, including housing, dining and parking fees. These have all but dried up as students departed college campuses in the wake of shutdowns. As a result, and as allowable by the CARES Act, many institutions are using a portion of their relief funding to soften the blow of the decrease in operating revenues brought about by COVID-19.

Likewise, the CARES Act provides resources to offset the cost of moving to distance learning. Many IHEs have been innovating their remote learning offerings for some time, but the COVID-19 pandemic necessitated massive change almost overnight. It rendered face-to-face instruction all but impossible, leaving IHEs no option but to rapidly migrate almost all instruction to distance learning models.

Not far up the Lake Michigan shoreline from Gateway, the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee faculty had their work cut out for them as on-campus instruction came to an abrupt halt and programs moved online. University Provost Johannes Britz was proud of the efforts made by his faculty to make the transition to distance learning.

“We flipped six thousand courses in two weeks. It was truly remarkable and nothing short of a miracle.”

The move to online learning brings with it associated technology costs, including software and hardware. Students lacking computers, tablets and internet service quickly found themselves unable to access the content being delivered by their schools. At the same time, faculty scrambled to identify simulation and eLearning tools to support student coursework and to add variety to potentially mundane video lectures delivered on virtual meeting platforms.

As learning models transitioned to virtual environments, colleges also had to quickly innovate other student assistance resources. “Within forty-eight hours we moved all of our student support services to a digital environment,” Gateway’s Riley noted. “Financial aid, recruitment and front-line services like helping our students register or helping them make a payment. We are grateful and excited that we are able to support so many students in this way.”

Driving Innovation

Scenario planning is a process by which an organization envisions myriad possible future realities and then lays out potential future action plans for each. Thus, when one of the scenarios presents itself in the future, the organization already has a prescribed plan to react. With so much uncertainty related to the next six months, scenario planning is in high gear for many IHEs.

The University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee’s Britz anticipates one of three potential scenarios emerging in the coming months. One scenario contemplates students returning to campus for the fall semester under enhanced safety protocols. A second foresees students resuming a close-to-normal schedule in the fall semester, only to be interrupted by a spike in COVID-19 cases that would necessitate a return to distance learning. A third possibility is that the current pandemic has not subsided to a point where students can return to campus for the fall semester, and 100% of learning will be delivered remotely.

In any of these events, the learning environment will differ from the one that students departed in March. While a full return to campus in August is perhaps the simplest one for which to plan, IHEs are making necessary efforts to ensure policies, procedures and personal protective equipment are adequate to provide a safe and healthy environment for students, faculty and administrators.

Britz also believes the current crisis is accelerating the general transition to digital learning, and this transition will continue – even assuming college campuses are predominantly open for the fall semester. His institution is conducting weekly student surveys to gain insight into the efficacy of current online learning models. By and large, student feedback has been positive. As a result, Britz foresees an increase in online teaching as IHEs move to a hybrid model. The new model will integrate in-person instruction and experiential learning, with online content delivery and simulation also playing a significant role.

Gateway’s President and CEO Bryan Albrecht agrees. Widely recognized as thought-leaders in technical education, Albrecht and his team have put significant consideration and intention into how they will utilize the portion of their institution’s emergency relief funds that are not allocated to direct student financial support. Albrecht predicts that as much of 40% of the portion over which the college has discretion will be invested in distance learning implementation and technology. Albrecht commented,

“We are preparing to deliver at least fifty percent of our curriculum online in the fall, and we will make the investments necessary to do so in a way that maximizes the student experience.”

Kellogg Community College, based in Battle Creek, Michigan, serves nearly nine thousand students each year. As the COVID-19 crisis closed in, Industrial Electricity Instructor Kevin Barnes leveraged his existing relationship with Jeffersonville, Indiana-based Amatrol, Inc. to expedite his program’s transition to a remote learning model. Amatrol develops and manufactures curriculum, training systems, eLearning and virtual simulation software used to prepare students and learners for technical careers in industries like manufacturing, oil and gas, distribution, logistics and packaging.

“As our institution had to quickly transition to online content, I was glad we had a working knowledge of the Amatrol Learning Management System, curriculum, and equipment,” Barnes stated.

“Using their modular content format and online resources, we were able to quickly implement an online version of our program content so students could successfully complete the semester. Moving forward, we will leverage more of Amatrol’s strengths to create a robust and flexible course offering.”

Barnes is not the only advocate for including a variety of teaching approaches in the distance learning model. Garry Tomerlin is the former Deputy Assistant Commissioner of Workforce in the Division of Workforce, Academic Affairs and Research at the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board. Today he is responsible for Government Relations and Strategic Initiatives for Tech-Labs, a Texas-based provider of technical education learning solutions. He is seeing the drive to distance learning take place faster than ever before. He noted,

“The move toward remote distance learning has been an evolutionary process; correspondence courses delivered through the mail gave way to the digital platform and so on. Now, suddenly, instead of being evolutionary and iterative, many institutions are being faced with the need to adapt or die.”

Given the urgency with which they were required to adapt, many programs transitioned their traditional classroom models to systems that delivered classroom lectures via video links. While teacher-led learning will likely always have its place in higher education, Tomerlin foresees a much more technology-driven hybrid model as being ideal.

“You can’t just take a forty-eight hour contact course, slice it into two or three minute videos, and assign them to students. If I was a student and you told me my assignment for the next three weeks was to watch 900 videos, I think I would drop the course.”

Since emergency relief funds can be utilized in part to defray the cost of moving to distance learning models, many institutions are seeking creative platforms and partners to assist them in providing a more well-rounded distance learning experience for students.


Higher education is in the planning stages of allocating the funding they will receive through the CARES Act Higher Education Emergency Relief Funds. Even so, clear trends are emerging in how the funds will be deployed within the boundaries of allowable uses. Rightly so, the needs of students and ensuring their continued access to their education programs is priority one.

Thereafter, offsetting losses due to COVID is of key importance, followed by offsetting the cost of the transition to innovative, creative and results-driven digital learning models.

One thing is for sure – the COVID-19 crisis is driving educators to rethink their use of technology, eLearning, simulation and virtual experiences on a scale and at a rate unforeseen before the crisis began. At least for the time being there is no other option.

Many educators are finding that they need the ability to teach students remotely.

In the hands-on world of advanced manufacturing, this can be difficult. Not to worry. We have the solutions to give your students interactive lessons from anywhere on any device. As an instructor, you can assign hand-picked courses and track learning for each student, giving you peace of mind.

Follow these 5 simple steps and your students can begin their learning program today!

Download a PDF version of our 5-Step Guide

1. Start now

If you wait, your students could miss learning opportunities.

To get your online program up and running quickly, let our consultative guides walk you through the process. We’ve helped thousands of students through eLearning. And we’re here to help make your job easier.

2. Select the eLearning courses that match the subject areas you need to teach

Choose from over 300 courses totaling 3,000 hours of learning to develop customized solution fit for your students.

From basic to advanced, our interactive, multimedia eLearning will keep even the most hands- on learners engaged with the online content.

Subject areas include:

• Electrical • Robotics • Manufacturing Processes • Process Control
• Electronics • Automation • Materials • Math
• Fluid Power • Mechatronics • Thermal • Machining & CNC
• Mechanical • Lean Manufacturing • Safety • Green Energy
• Quality • STEM • Automotive • Science

Each of these subjects contains numerous courses. And each course comprises 4-14 hours of learning!

3. Select the eLearning model that fits your objectives

Depending on your goals and needs, our guides will help create a customized progression of course material for your students.

This could look like single course codes that give an individual access to a course for 2 months, all the way up to full library licenses for an entire year…and every option in between.

We’ll help determine the most economical option for your teaching needs and help get it launched so your students don’t miss out on any learning.

4. Activate your learners

Once the structure and courses are set up, you’ll receive a custom eLearning code. This will give your students immediate access to the content you assign to them. They can get started with their online program without skipping a beat.

5. Track progress

Our eLearning comes with a Learning Management System that gives you access to all the instructor tools and information you need. Track your learner’s participation, activity and quiz results in real-time to ensure assignments are completed as expected.

Once you see those stats come through, you’ll rest assured that your students are remaining engaged and on track.

Take advantage of this opportunity to teach and upskill your students from anywhere they can access the internet. All the tools and resources you need are here, readily available. Our team stands ready to support you. You just have to get started.

We’ll help you with that first step…

Fill out the form below, or visit to get started.

Amatrol and the Manufacturing Skill Standards Council (MSSC) have developed a new technology to create more supply chain automation technicians. The Skill Boss Logistics was designed to train and test students and workers to operate, troubleshoot and maintain supply chain automation technology.

Consumption of goods is at an all-time high, and companies are turning to automation to meet demand. For example, with the explosion of online shopping, distribution centers are popping up all over the country to house these orders and meet rapid delivery windows. The supply chain logistics needed to manufacture, distribute, warehouse, ship and track these goods are highly advanced.

Amatrol and MSSC recognized the need for highly-qualified technicians to work in these environments. And so they created the Skill Boss Logistics.

Skill Boss Logistics

Amatrol Skill Boss Logistics LAB MidwestThe Skill Boss Logistics is a hands-on training and testing device aligned to over 100 skills from MSSC’s nationally-validated Logistics Standards. The system is bench-top sized, but it’s designed as a miniature automated distribution system, complete with material handling, conveyors, package tracking, automatic package queuing and priority release, sorting and more.

Skill Boss Logistics includes a variety of supply chain automation components, including multiple types of conveyors, electro-pneumatic sorters, vacuum, 2D barcode reader, PLC control, Ethernet network, AC and DC drives, and warehouse control software. It also includes an innovative computerized fault insertion system to provide testing of troubleshooting skills based on realistic sortation system problems.

Over a dozen of the world’s leading distribution and package delivery corporations advised Amatrol on the design of Skill Boss Logistics. It will enable both students and incumbent workers to gain the skills needed to meet the definition of a supply chain automation technician established by the National Science Foundation-funded National Center for Supply Chain Automation: a technician who installs, operates, supports, upgrades or maintains the automated material handling equipment and systems which support the supply chain.

Supply Chain Automation Certifications

To meet the need for more technicians, MSSC has developed the Certified Technician in Supply Chain Automation (CT-SCA) certification. The CT-SCA program is an industry-led standards-based training, assessment, and certification system focused on the core skills and knowledge needed by the nation’s logistics workforce.

Using the Skill Boss Logistics, learners can earn three full certifications under the CT-SCA heading:

  1. Certification in Maintaining Equipment/Systems: CTSCA – EM
  2. Certification in Installing, Modifying, Troubleshooting, and Repairing Equipment/Systems: CTSCA – ER
  3. Certification in Installing, Modifying, Troubleshooting, and Repairing Basic Controllers and Networks: CTSCA – NR

Those who earn all three will receive a full “Automation Master” recognition and insignia from MSSC.

Skill Boss Logistics adds the hands-on component for both training and assessment, and it can fit seamlessly into any logistics program. Students can be inspired and equipped to enter into a logistics career, while incumbent workers can be upskilled to work in a fast-paced, automated world.

Skill Boss Logistics For Your Program

A major retail supply chain facilities engineering team recently concluded,

“Our team was very impressed by both Amatrol and the MSSC certification, and are excited about how we can bring them into our training path moving forward. Amatrol clearly displays their expertise in this space with outstanding and highly effective hands-on tools.”

Skill Boss Logistics, coupled with the CT-SCA certification, can be the perfect addition for your company or logistics courses. Fill out the form below and we’ll gladly provide more information.

The University of Wisconsin-Green Bay recently opened new engineering labs that will give students the real-world skills they need for the workforce. The project is part of a greater vision to draw more students to northeast Wisconsin and meet the region’s demand for engineers.

Open House Celebrates New Labs

A $1.5 million investment brought in nearly 100 new pieces of mechanical engineering equipment. The idea is to give students a way to put all their theoretical classroom knowledge to practice.

An open house during Engineering Week celebrated the four new labs and machine shop. It’s all housed at the Brown County STEM Innovation Center.

UW-Green Bay Engineering students use a TecQuipment tensile test strength experiment.John Katers, founding Dean of the College of Science, Engineering and Technology at UW-Green Bay gave the opening remarks:

“In order to be successful in their education at UW-Green Bay and ultimately in their engineering careers, it is incredibly important for these students to not only be taught by highly qualified faculty and staff, but also to have high-quality equipment and resources available for both instruction and research.”

The school partnered with LAB Midwest to outfit the space with equipment from TecQuipment. Renee Kirchner, CEO of LAB Midwest commented on the impact this investment will make:

“These state-of-the-art engineering labs will specifically equip this program’s students with [hands-on] experience, positioning them to add tremendous value to their employers and our economy.”

Mechanical Engineering in Practice

In the labs, Mechanical Engineering students will get to apply theories of controls and measurement, thermodynamics, fluids, and materials. The experiments are all designed to mimic the types of applications they will see on the job.

Assistant Professor Jagadeep Thota and his students held demonstrations during the open house.

In the materials lab, students used the tensile testing machine to study the strength of various metals. In the fluids lab, a flow channel demonstrated how barriers and other objects alter water flow. Students will also learn on hydraulic benches where they can see how different turbines work.

Professor Thota was in charge of researching and choosing the equipment for these labs. He focused on experiments that would develop skills valuable to employers.

“The STEM area is very much in demand, and the job market is good in the area,” he said. “The equipment allows students to get practical experience for the workforce.”

Economic Impact

UW-Green Bay Engineering Assistant Professor Jagadeep Thota explains the TecQuipment hydraulic bench with turbineThe program is part of the Richard J. Resch School of Engineering at UW-Green Bay. There is a huge need for engineers in northeast Wisconsin, and the school was founded to meet that demand.

Previously, the university offered a pre-engineering program. Now, students can graduate with their BS in Mechanical Engineering. Partnerships with local technical colleges make it easy for 2-year graduates to transfer to UW-Green Bay and finish their engineering degree.

In just two years, the school has met its five-year enrollment goal, and the Mechanical Engineering program has doubled expectations at nearly 100 declared majors.

As the program grows, students from across the state will be drawn to study at UW-Green Bay. And that will feed into a pipeline of engineers who learn and work in the region.

Creating a Pipeline of STEM Talent  

A hands-on focus isn’t the only unique thing about UW-Green Bay’s program. What’s really exciting is the wholistic approach to reaching the next generation of STEM talent.

The Brown County STEM Innovation Center is a one-of-a-kind facility. It’s located on the college campus, but the space is shared by several organizations, including UW-Extension and 4-H, Brown County, and the non-profit group Einstein Project.

Students of all ages use the building for various STEM groups and events where they’ll get a chance to see these engineering labs.

Kirchner summed up the impact of this when she said, “What young person of Northeastern Wisconsin, or the entire Midwest for that matter, wouldn’t visit hands-on labs like these and at least wonder, ‘Is engineering the right career path for me?’”

Prospects are high with this ecosystem of STEM talent being developed in Green Bay. It’s a great beginning to an even brighter future.

UW-Green Bay Labs in the News

Read more great articles on these engineering labs!

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