(KFVS) - The University of Tennessee at Martin Department of Engineering has announced plans to add a concentration in manufacturing engineering.
This will be the first and only training program for manufacturing engineers in Tennessee, and the university hopes to help fill a statewide employment gap in the industry.
"There is a high demand for manufacturing engineers (with undergraduate degrees) in the state, and nobody is producing them," said Dr. Robert LeMaster, professor and interim chair, UT Martin Department of Engineering. "Companies are having to hire engineers and train them in skills that they could learn as part of their education."
The university plans to offer the new specialized courses beginning with the fall 2017 semester.
Manufacturing is a major industry in the state, with 53 positions available per 1,000 people.
However, the University of Miami offers the only bachelor's-level training program for manufacturing engineers in the southeast.
This forces local companies seeking manufacturing engineers to either recruit out-of-state graduates or hire an engineer from another specialization.
"Engineers in other disciplines are having to learn these skills after they go on the job and by trade, not education, become a manufacturing engineer," said LeMaster.
According to the Academic Program Supply and Occupational Demand Projections for 2012-2025, the state of Tennessee produces an average of 234 engineering graduates each year in the mechanical, electrical and industrial concentrations.
Only eight of those graduates choose industrial engineering, and none specialize in manufacturing engineering.
There are, however, an average of 295 statewide job openings in this industry each year, with 120 of those requiring industrial or manufacturing engineers.
Industrial and manufacturing engineers overlap in many areas, however there are key differences that make the transition from one to the other more difficult than assumed.
The training for industrial engineers is management-oriented and focuses on the worker to improve production.
The training for manufacturing engineers is process-oriented and emphasizes improving the production process and creating a high-quality product in the most efficient way possible.
At UT Martin, the difference is seen in 27 hours of specialized coursework.
The new concentration would focus on meeting the needs of existing companies in West Tennessee and training a highly qualified workforce to take those companies into the coming years.
"We recruit in manufacturing engineering, that's what we're looking for actually in this area," said Jody Jones, engineering manager with NSK in Dyersburg. "We've got mechanical engineers that we normally hire to make that transition. … It would be a whole lot easier for us to partner with someone like UT Martin and actually help develop that curriculum. We could hire our people straight out of school and have them come right to work."
The UT Martin Department of Engineering is expected to grow exponentially with the completion of the university's new Engineering and Science Building and a proposed Innovation and Product Realization Facility.
The Bachelor of Science in engineering program is accredited by the Engineering Accreditation Commission of ABET. For more information on ABET accreditation, visit abet.org.
For more information on the new concentration, contact the department at 731-881-7571.