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Industrial Technology: Gain marketable skills for today’s technical workplace

Jay Pruden sees a vibrant future for students in Tidewater Community College’s industrial manufacturing engineering technology program. Whether students seek a career certificate, an associate degree or the ability to transfer to a four-year university, the outlook is promising in the field that emphasizes the application of concepts, principles and managerial skills required in today’s highly technical industrial workplace.

Here’s why.

“Baby boomers are retiring, and there’s physically not enough people to transition to their jobs,” said Pruden, program head for industrial engineering technology based at the Virginia Beach Campus. “Companies will start raising pay for workers who have those skills. Couple that with jobs transitioning from overseas back to the United States, and jobs will be plentiful for those who have the right skill set.”

He offers the example of a company like Nike, which will benefit from recent technology changes that will eventually make manufacturing shoes in this country more cost effective than overseas.

Jay Pruden, program head
Jay Pruden, program head

“We teach what’s going to be required by the workforce for the next 10 years and beyond,” said Pruden, whose background includes two decades in manufacturing in addition to high school and college teaching.

Industrial manufacturing engineering technology offers specializations in:

Quality assurance and occupational safety attract the most students among the five areas of interest. The quality assurance specialization covers the body of knowledge necessary to pass the American Society for Quality Control Certified Mechanical Inspector exam and the Certified Quality Technician exam.

“Most organizations have some type of quality aspect,” Pruden said. “We teach what quality is, how to capture data, how to organize it and how to analyze it.”

Students specializing in occupational safety gain extensive knowledge of OSHA regulations and inspection procedures.

No matter the specialty, Pruden stresses teamwork and communication, problem solving and critical thinking, and presentation of data.

Chad Williamson showing classmate Willie Dixon a resultant defect found in a weld on a test piece used during a dye penetrant test demonstration
Chad Williamson showing classmate Willie Dixon
a resultant defect found in a weld on a test piece
used during a dye penetrant test demonstration. 

“Most industries lack those skills. It doesn’t matter whether it’s manufacturing, education, government or marketing,” he said. “These are the skill sets required to succeed in the real world and we’ve begun to integrate them into every class we teach.”

Among the 250 students enrolled in industrial engineering technology, 80 percent are already employed, and some of those are upgrading their skills with the support of their employer. Given that, most classes either meet in the evening or are online.

The field also attracts those in the military who are moving into the civilian workplace. While the program attracts few recent high school graduates, Pruden sees that changing in the coming years as the college moves to leverage its relationship with high schools and local businesses.

The Associate of Applied Science in Industrial Technology is 65 credits requiring course work that ranges from Introduction to Metrology (IND 145) to Statistical Quality Control (IND 146) to Project Management (BUS 204) to two semesters of precalculus. Students may also choose credit career studies certificates, which can be completed in one semester. Credits earned in the certificate programs can be applied to the associate degree.