Expansion of Smith Hall on Middletown Campus will allow for additional mechatronics programming

For Immediate Release:
November 22, 2021

Primary Media Contact:
Sally Voth
Public Relations Specialist
[email protected]
Phone: 540-868-7134

Construction on the expansion of Alson H. Smith Hall on the Middletown Campus began in late summer.

The expansion of Alson H. Smith Hall on Laurel Ridge’s Middletown Campus will allow Workforce Solutions to be able to expand its high-demand program in advanced manufacturing.

Workforce Solutions’ mechatronics program teaches students – and those already in the workforce and looking to upskill – how to operate and maintain the smart technology used in area manufacturing operations. Through hands-on learning, they will become qualified to work as electromechanical technicians, production technicians and industrial maintenance technicians.

“The Middletown Campus is situated in a huge manufacturing corridor, and we cannot satisfy industry’s need for a workforce skilled in advanced manufacturing fast enough,” Workforce Solutions and Continuing Education Vice President Jeanian Clark said. “It’s an equipment-intensive program. To build the full program out to the three levels of certified training our employers deserve, we needed additional space.”

That is why construction of a 3,500-square-foot addition to Smith Hall began in late summer. The project is expected to be finished by May, with Level 2 Mechatronics classes beginning on site in fall 2022.

Because mechatronics equipment is very sensitive to dust, temperature, and vibration, Workforce Solutions moved it the Emil & Grace Shihadeh Innovation Center in Winchester to protect it and keep classes running. Winchester Public Schools use the center for health sciences, professional skills and advanced technologies academies. Three labs in the center are dedicated to Laurel Ridge classes and feature glass walls.

“When students walk by, they’re seeing this very sophisticated, state-of-the-art equipment which we hope inspires them,” said Clark. “What’s cool about mechatronics class is it’s all the sleek robotics and controls. It’s impressive equipment. We hope that will drive future interest in these students for these great careers with our local industries.”

Level 1 Mechatronics will be taught in the Shihadeh Center through May, she said.

“We are the very first workforce program statewide that has generated enough program revenue to invest in a capital facilities project,” Clark said. “Any of the profits we generated over and above paying the costs of the program, we’ve been able to save so we could reinvest in the programs our regional workforce demands.”

In addition to the Smith Hall expansion, funds are being reinvested in expanding technical space at Laurel Ridge’s Fauquier Campus.

The Level 1 mechatronics program currently offered by Workforce Solutions offers six industry credentials that students can complete in a year. Skills gained include understanding and safely operating and maintaining machines and processes, troubleshooting and addressing common issues in electromechanical systems, performing basic robot programming and operation, and operating and maintaining fluid power systems.

“Our classes are designed to fit a working student’s schedule,” Clark said.

The starting salary for someone who has completed Level 1 Mechatronics is about $40,000. After completing Level 2 mechatronics, a technician can expect to earn $60,000-$70,000, according to Clark. Those earning a Level 3 can expect an annual salary of $70,000-$90,000.

“There is also an opportunity for our mechatronics students to lattice with the credit side of the college to put them on the pathway for an engineering degree,” Clark said.

Even with the work going on at Smith Hall, Workforce Solutions has been able to continue to offer other trades programs in the space, including a four-level electrical program, as well as full HVAC and heavy-equipment operator programs. All of these trades programs, including mechatronics, are eligible for FastForward and G3 funding, making them very affordable for students and employers wishing to enroll their workers.

Learn more about the mechatronics program at lfccworkforce.com/mechatronics. For more information about the G3 program – which provides last-dollar tuition for eligible students – visit laurelridge.edu/g3.

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Founded in 1970, Laurel Ridge Community College is a multi-campus public institution of higher education. With four locations — Middletown, Warrenton, Luray-Page County and most recently, Vint Hill— the College serves eight localities in the Shenandoah Valley and northern Piedmont regions. The localities are the counties of Clarke, Fauquier, Frederick, Page, Rappahannock, Shenandoah and Warren and the city of Winchester. Laurel Ridge offers more than 75 associate degree and certificate programs in a wide variety of disciplines, in addition to providing access to bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral degree programs offered on site by a four-year institution. Laurel Ridge also serves the business community by offering workforce preparation programs for employees and employers. Laurel Ridge serves more than 9,000 unduplicated credit students and more than 11,000 individuals in professional development and business and industry courses annually.

Laurel Ridge Community College (Laurel Ridge) is accredited by the Commission on Colleges of the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools to award associate degrees. Contact the Commission on Colleges at 1866 Southern Lane, Decatur, Georgia 30033-4097 or call 404-679-4500 for questions about the accreditation of Laurel Ridge Community College. Laurel Ridge Community College is an equal opportunity institution providing educational and employment opportunities, programs, services, and activities and does not discriminate on the basis of race, color, sex, age, religion, disability, national origin, marital status, political affiliation, sexual orientation, or other non-merit factors. Laurel Ridge also prohibits sexual misconduct including sexual violence or harassment.

Laurel Ridge Community College was known as Lord Fairfax Community College until June 2022. For consistency purposes, the college will be referenced as Laurel Ridge going forward.

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