Roane State, ORNL, industries train workers in composites, advanced manufacturing

John Thornton at Carbon Fiber Technology Facility

John Thornton, left, a graduate of Roane State’s Advanced Materials Training and Education Center and an intern at Oak Ridge National Laboratory’s Carbon Fiber Technology Facility, chats with Roane State President Chris Whaley. (Submitted photos)

John Thornton of Clinton graduated from Roane State Community College’s Advanced Materials Training and Education Center, or AMTEC, a year ago.

Today, he works in one of the most innovative places in the country.

“It’s been an amazing experience,” Thornton said. “It was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to be a part of this and hopefully develop a career out of it.”

Thornton is one of 13 AMTEC trainees interning at Oak Ridge National Laboratory’s Carbon Fiber Technology Facility. The $35 million plant is a new advanced manufacturing facility designed to reduce the cost of carbon fiber—a critical material for efficient, lightweight vehicles, next-generation wind turbines, and a wide array of other consumer and industrial products.

Through AMTEC and additional programs, Roane State is working with ORNL and area industries to offer the training needed for jobs in composites and other advanced manufacturing fields.

“We expect there will be huge growth in this industry over the next decade, and so anyone that understands carbon fiber or composite manufacturing, or any kind of advanced manufacturing technology, is going to be well-positioned for a good-paying career,” said Lee McGetrick, director of the Carbon Fiber Technology Facility.

Roane State President Tours Carbon Fiber Technology Facility

Lee McGetrick, left, director of the Oak Ridge National Laboratory’s Carbon Fiber Technology Facility, shows Roane State President Chris Whaley how products made with carbon fiber are much lighter and stronger than products made with raw materials such as steel.

The AMTEC program provides a variety of training options such as OSHA certification, computer-aided drafting and design, and instruction in composite materials. The grant-funded initiative is available at no cost to those who are unemployed or underemployed. AMTEC courses are noncredit, meaning they do not count toward a college degree or certificate.

Roane State does offer advanced manufacturing programs for college credit, including a one-year certificate program in composite materials. Because Roane State’s composite materials courses are grant-funded, students who already have a college degree, or are close to finishing a degree, may be eligible to take some of these courses at no cost.

The college also has a one-year mechatronics certificate program, which teaches students how to repair high-tech automated machines. Mechatronics includes instruction in electronics, mechanics, computer science, robotics, and process control.

Roane State President Chris Whaley, who recently toured the Carbon Fiber Technology Facility, said the initiatives reflect the college’s commitment to becoming a leading provider of education in advanced manufacturing.

“We want to be in a position where we can provide credit and noncredit training that the workforce needs and to hopefully grow as the technology emerges,” Whaley said. “We are going to make sure that the training opportunities we provide are up to speed with what the workforce needs today and in the future.”

For more information on Roane State’s advanced manufacturing programs, call (865) 354-3000, ext. 4764, or send an e-mail to [email protected].

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