MTC course sets the bar to hirer | From the Observer

Advanced manufacturing program draws the interest of local businesses.

Country Club’s Michael Baillie faces a tough choice — picking from one of his many job offers.

In six months, students in the Advanced Manufacturing course at Manatee Technical College will find their lives transformed and a world of opportunities likely will await them. Just ask the 22-year-old Baillie.

Baillie graduates from the six-month course in April and he has offers from the Manatee County Utilities Department and Sun Hydraulics, among several others. The course costs $2,245.

The Advanced Manufacturing program began in September 2017, and the school received a $200,000 state grant from then Gov. Rick Scott in January 2018, which allowed MTC to purchase high-tech equipment for its students, such as laser engravers and robotic arms.

Baillie is just one of example of students drawing attention. Justin Fitzstephens, an 18-year-old Mote Ranch resident who started in August and graduated in January, is now working at Roots Engineering Services, where he programs, builds and wires robotics machines.

Fitzstephens said collaboration was an essential part of the course as students teach each other and help each other overcome learning obstacles.

For example, he said he struggled at times to understand the plasma cutter.

“I didn’t understand the programs for it,” he said, noting that he also didn’t really want to try.

But one of his classmates stepped in, taught him what he wasn’t getting, and he walked away from that lesson with a new set of skills.

Justin Fitzstephens works on the equipment which is meant to automatically dispense and stir a powdered energy drink into a bottle of water and deliver a finished product.

Baillie said he appreciates that type of collaboration.

“It was very exciting to teach some of the other people,” he said.

Gil Burlew, the school’s Advanced Manufacturing and Production instructor, guides the program.

“I’m excited I have a small little part in helping them get to where they need to be,” Burlew said.

Burlew said he has businesses reaching out to scout students for jobs in their companies. He showed one text he received requesting that he send any fit job candidates that company’s way. That particular company had success with another MTC hire.

Michael Baillie is a student in the Advanced Manufacturing course.

Burlew said he doesn’t consider the work his students do after their graduation to be “jobs.”

“The word ‘job’ doesn’t exist here,” he said. “We’re not looking for jobs, we’re looking for careers.”

Burlew said he hopes students find companies where they can grow. He also noted his students learn more than the technical skills related to the job, such as teamwork and communication.

“The skills that they’re learning here will apply to their everyday life,” he said.

The way students learn is crucial to Burlew, too, he said. It’s not virtual, but hands-on, which he said is the best way for students to learn.

His Advanced Manufacturing classroom is full of projects from the students, from metal fish crafted using a plasma cutter to robotic arms sorting pills.

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