‘Game changer’: Austin Community College approves new manufacturing bachelor’s degree

Education

AUSTIN (KXAN) — Students interested in the manufacturing industry will soon get the chance to earn a new bachelor’s degree from Austin Community College.

On Monday, ACC’s trustees approved the Bachelor of Applied Technology degree in Manufacturing Engineering Technology, making it the third bachelor’s degree to be offered by the college.

“It would not be unheard of for an individual coming out of a program like this to be running a company some years down the road,” said Brandon Whatley, dean of Design, Manufacturing, Construction and Applied Technologies.

In a press release, Whatley called the new degree a “game changer” for students because of the rapid growth of the manufacturing sector in the Austin area, which is, in part, due to Tesla’s new Travis County gigafactory.

ACC says over the next decade, the region is expected to see a 20% growth in manufacturing engineering technologists.

“People who got associate degrees, in any kind of workforce program – that was probably where it ended,” said Laura Marmolejo, department chair for Advanced Manufacturing. “This is a great opportunity for them to come back, get their bachelor’s degree and move up in management in a company.”

An advisory committee made up of reps from big companies who operate in the Austin area, like Samsung, Applied Materials, Athena Manufacturing, and the Austin Regional Manufacturing Association helped the college establish the degree.

“We just had great industry support and feedback throughout the whole process. It was phenomenal,” Whatley said.

The program will be housed at the ACC Highland campus with both full and part-time programs, ACC says. There will be hybrid and online courses as well as an internship opportunity for all students. Students who have an associate degree in a related field are eligible to join.

“What we hope to gather with this is upscaling existing employees within the industry, as well as giving our students an opportunity for a bachelor’s degree or that next level,” Whatley said.

ACC is waiting on approvals from the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board and the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission. Once approved, the college says it expects the first cohort of 40 students to start in fall 2022.

ACC trustees on Monday also approved another associate’s degree: Associate of Applied Science degree in Conservation Science and Wildlife Management.

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