Engineering Technology graduates filling advanced manufacturing workforce needs

In May of 2020, The Ohio State University Board of Trustees voted to approve a new major in engineering technology through the College of Engineering to be offered on Ohio State’s regional campuses. This new program was created to prepare graduates with the skills and expertise needed for in-demand jobs across the state – a group of business-oriented engineering leaders to lead the high-tech manufacturing industry of tomorrow.

We welcomed our first Engineering Technology students in Autumn 2020, and now – 4 years later – those same students have entered the workforce as quality engineers, managers and more.

a student explaining speaking with another student while pointing at an engineering robot

Ohio State Mansfield celebrated the inaugural class of graduates of the Bachelor of Science in Engineering Technology earlier this month. The Mansfield campus awarded 8 students, Kurtis Baker, Amanda Becker, Zachary Ernest, Travis Fisher, Joel Howard, Jerrod Kiser, Jay Swainhart, and Kendrea Ward, with their degrees – the most graduates of any Ohio State campus. 

One graduate, Jerrod Kiser, initially began his educational career on the Columbus campus as an engineering student but ultimately opted to transition to the Mansfield campus for a smaller campus experience with more one-on-one interaction with his instructors and opportunities for internships. Kiser emphasized, “Engineering Technology has prepared me to become a leader in manufacturing through a wide-range of engineering, project management, and business-oriented leadership courses.”

“The most valuable part of the Engineering Technology program is how much hands-on learning we do through our labs and classes. We are actually figuring out how to do all the things we learn about in class, where if we got a more specialized engineering degree, we would be learning more theory than hands-on application.”

Another graduate, Travis Fisher, echoed similar thoughts, “If you like engineering, really think about getting your degree in Engineering Technology…much smaller class size so more personal instruction. The professors are much more active in your learning and tuition is more affordable than going to the Columbus campus and more hands-on than any other degree I have seen.”

Fisher, currently an IT manager with a local manufacturer, stated, “The PLC (Programmable Logic Controller) classes, C++ class, and robotics classes have all prepared me for technology advances at my company. Also the leadership classes have taught me how to be a better manager and leader.” The Charter Next Generation PLC Lab provides students with state-of-the-art equipment and hands-on experience in designing, programming, and troubleshooting industrial automation systems.

Engineering Technology faculty member and Program Coordinator, Amber Rader, said, 

“What differentiates our program is the breadth of skills our graduates have when they leave.” She continued, “They obtain these skills so they can fill positions like Process Engineer, Quality Engineer, Automation Engineer or Project Manager.”

One graduate, Zachary Ernest, came to the Engineering Technology program as a non-traditional student who had already spent several years working in manufacturing. Ernest said, “I went to school for accounting when I was 18 and it really wasn’t for me. I dropped out and started working full-time in 2012 for Covert Manufacturing. But working on the floor as a machinist, I realized this job isn’t going to be here in 20 years. I needed to figure something out. So, I went back to Ohio State initially just for general education classes. Then, Ohio State Mansfield introduced the Engineering Technology program and my CEO (at Covert Manufacturing) thought it was a fantastic program so she decided to pay for my school. At that point in my career, I knew I wanted to follow manufacturing because it was my passion. It was a leap of faith, but it’s definitely worked out for me.”

Ernest’s hard work paid off while he was still in school, ultimately leading to a promotion to Quality Engineer while only a third-year student in the program. 

“I give Engineering Technology high praise. Working in manufacturing daily, to come into the program and see how this education reflects positions in management is critical. Early in the program, you gain a macro view of engineering, robotics, management, Lean Six processes, PLCs — that background is invaluable and the big benefit is problem-solving. Plus, the class sizes are super beneficial. There’s 12-14 people in our class so professors are always available. For me being a nontraditional student, I need that access; if I’m struggling, I need answers. And I get that hands-on help.”

For many of the graduates, their most impactful experience in the program has been the opportunity to work directly with industry partners through internships and capstone projects. Jerrod Kiser stated, “My favorite experience at Ohio State Mansfield has been working on our senior capstone project. Being able to work alongside other students on a real project for a local manufacturer is a nice change of pace from regular classes and provides valuable experience.”

Additionally, the 4th year students in the program get to learn in the Richland County Foundation CSM (Connected Smart Manufacturing) Lab, where they focus on understanding, designing, and working with advanced machinery that incorporates connectivity, data exchange, automation, and intelligent capabilities.

Three individuals standing in front of a research poster

For incoming students possibly interested in Engineering Technology, Kiser added, “One piece of advice I'd give is to incoming students is to get involved with some sort of club or in a service position. I have been able to make many valuable connections with professionals and made new friends during my time as a student ambassador for the program. This has allowed me to attend recruiting events to build the student base for the major and also attending Industry Advisory Council meetings as well as Regional Manufacturing Coalition meetings which allow me to network with local employers.”

If you are interested in learning more about Engineering Technology, visit https://engineering.osu.edu/engineering-technology or contact the Office of Enrollment Services at 419-755-4300 or Mansfield-askabuckeye@osu.edu