New apprenticeship program will offer students money, mechatronics training


Community college students will now have the opportunity to participate in what officials call an innovative and unprecedented mechatronics apprenticeship program thanks to a partnership with three companies in the Greater New Orleans area.

Students in the program will receive technical classroom instruction and on-the-job training over the course of two years, according to higher education and business leaders Wednesday (March 27) morning at the Delgado Community College River City Site and Advanced Manufacturing Center. Students in the program will also earn money with training costs covered completely by the employer. Monty Sullivan, president of the Louisiana Community and Technical College System, lauded the program as robots, widgets and gadgets churned and flashed at the Avondale campus.

Representatives from Elmer Chocolate, Laitram, and Zatarain’s each signed a contract alongside the chancellors of Delgado Community College, Northshore Technical Community College, and Nunez Community College to finalize the agreement.

“We’re really pumped to be a part of this,” said Robert Nelson, CEO of the Ponchatoula-based Elmer Chocolate candy company. “This is just the beginning.”

Nelson said a joint study released last November by the Deloitte accounting company and The Manufacturing Institute found manufacturers will need to add 4.6 million manufacturing jobs — 2.4 million of which may go unfilled — over the next ten years. Nelson said their program will create a pipeline of employees who will be able to fill the needs of the region’s advanced manufacturing jobs.

Mechatronics is an interdisciplinary branch of engineering that combines skills and knowledge in electrical and mechanical systems, electronics, robotics and control systems. Experts in this field get employed in jobs that include manufacturing for plastics, aerospace and engineering.

Apprentices will alternate between eight weeks of classroom work and eight weeks at their chosen company. Class work ranges from blue print reading and lessons in customer service, sales and skills, to maintenance installation, repair and lessons in hydraulics and power transmission.

Zatarain’s general manager Raj Nair said the New Orleans-based food products supplier is committed to helping its partners address “one of our state’s most pressing problems.” Nunez chancellor Tina Tinney stressed the partnership supports the mission of community colleges to prepare students for good jobs.

“Together we are creating better prospects for students and a stronger workforce in our city and state,” Nair said.

Delgado interim chancellor William Wainwright lauded the Greater New Orleans, Inc. and Jefferson Parish Economic Development Commission economic development agencies for their “critical” support in bringing this program to scale. Wainwright called the program, which is being led by Greater New Orleans, Inc., “a model for the nation.” Wainwright’s comments were echoed by Michael Hecht, president & CEO of Greater New Orleans, which convenes the three schools and three companies.

Daniel Roberts, Northshore Technical’s provost and vice chancellor of academic affairs, said information sessions will be offered in April for residents to learn more about the program, the application and the selection process. See below for information on those sessions.

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