Northwood Technical College in Wisconsin just unveiled a new cutting-edge Mechatronics Lab at their Rice Lake Campus which will prepare students for careers in manufacturing across the northern region of the state.
The investment is made possible through the Housing Opportunity and Mobile Education Solutions (HOMES) Workforce Innovation Grant, a collaboration with the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation (WEDC) and the Wisconsin Department of Workforce Development (DWD). The ribbon-cutting event, attended by state leaders and regional employers, was an exciting day that showed how the college is on the forefront of modern technical education and training.
The core of the project is the new Mechatronics Lab. The college worked with LAB Midwest to envision a space that would fully equip students for careers in today’s advanced manufacturing facilities.
The plan includes curriculum around mechatronics, industrial control systems, industrial robotics and more advanced Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) topics. The lab is outfitted with Industry 4.0 learning systems from Amatrol and FANUC. As students go through their coursework, they’ll gain industry-relevant, hands-on skills that will tie directly to careers in manufacturing. They’ll also have the opportunity to earn third-party certifications that will validate their skills to employers.
Expressing enthusiasm about the new lab, Northwood Tech President John Will stated, “We’re extremely excited to introduce a cutting-edge lab that supports the advancements of the manufacturing sector. The HOMES funding also supports a mobile version of this training, representing a major step forward in our capabilities, offering opportunities in the lab and to other communities with mobile lab equipment.”
Sam Rikkers, deputy secretary of the WEDC, highlighted the significance of this initiative in the context of Wisconsin’s economy, stating, “Manufacturing is a key part of Wisconsin’s economy. Our factories today use advanced technology, and employers need workers with mechanical, electrical, and IT skills to keep all that equipment running. The Mechatronics Lab at Northwood Technical College is helping train those workers, and WEDC is proud to support it.”
The event offered attendees the chance to engage with the mechatronics lab up close. College faculty, staff, and students offered tours and demonstrations to visitors. This kind of dialogue is key to creating and sustaining strong bonds between education and regional employers. It was clear at this event that Northwood has created a collaborative ecosystem in its backyard where industry, academia and workforce development organizations can come together to create programs that will benefit students, employers and the economy as a whole.
Wisconsin DWD Secretary Amy Pechacek emphasized the lab’s role in fortifying Wisconsin’s workforce and ensuring a robust talent pipeline for key industries. She remarked, “The new advanced manufacturing lab represents the innovation and successful collaborations that are developing Wisconsin’s workforce and ensuring a robust talent pipeline for key industries such as manufacturing.”
In a fun turn of events, the event featured some unexpected local celebrities—Blaze Bear of Northwood and Jack Link’s famous Sasquatch. But beyond the mascots and ceremonial flair, the event underscored the support pouring in from local employers: Jack Links, a household name in the region, stands alongside other community pillars such as Thomas Precision Inc, Rice Lake Weighing Systems, and Nexen Group, all of whom have rallied behind Northwood Tech’s mission to cultivate a skilled workforce.
As Northwood Technical College strides into this new era of advanced manufacturing education, President John Will emphasizes the institution’s commitment to continuous innovation. The mechatronics lab represents just one facet of Northwood Tech’s broader vision to adapt, evolve, and stay at the forefront of educational excellence. With an eye on the future, the college remains dedicated to shaping the next generation of skilled professionals, ready to meet the ever-changing demands of the manufacturing landscape.