Archived Story

Mike Mann: Award-winning Central Alabama Community College instructor teaches students to become high-tech employees

Published 3:33pm Monday, April 4, 2011

Mike Mann | Kenneth Boone

Central Alabama Community College instructor Mike Mann is at the forefront of a renaissance of Alexander City’s rich industrial past.

It seems automotive manufacturing has taken the place of textiles as the dominant employer in Tallapoosa County and such a change has caused a shift in workforce training.

Through his job as an industrial training specialist, the former engineering manager at Russell Corp.’s Research and Development Department trains students on the latest manufacturing technology using equipment in the Betty Carol Graham Technology Center on CACC’s campus.

“This position fit me like a glove,” he said.

Mann described the program as a hybrid between mechanics, computer control and electronics.

Mann has a class load that includes three levels of robotics, two levels of programmable logic controllers, hydraulics and pneumatics, engineering technology, blueprint reading, occupational health and safety, lean manufacturing, servo motor control and industrial sensors.

The program focuses on automation within the automotive manufacturing sector, which is important for students seeking work with the local automotive industry, as well as with other manufacturers.

“While the auto industry is heavily automated, local manufacturing requires the same skill sets,” Mann said. “Most of the students will be technicians performing high tech maintenance.”

Mann said he works closely with economic development officials because companies that choose to locate in the area look for students who are well trained.

“It’s a great opportunity for my students,” Mann said. “We’re giving students the skills they need for a career and helping them find a career when they finish.”

Mann added that the need for skilled workers has only increased recently with expansions at SL Alabama, KwangSung America and Sejin America.

“There are open jobs for technicians right now,” Mann said.

CACC started its manufacturing technology degree program five years ago with the help of a grant from the National Science Foundation. The NSF recently renewed the Consortium for Alabama Regional Center for Automotive Manufacturing grant money for another three years due to the success of the program, Mann said.

Mann said the program got its start with a survey of many of the automobile manufacturers in the state.

“Automobile manufacturing has been acknowledged as one of the fastest growing industries in the state,” Mann said.

He said the survey told the school the skill sets manufacturers were looking for in their workforce. The school then adapted a degree program to fit those needs.

“It has been established as a new degree in the state,” Mann said. “It started in five colleges and is now in nine.”

The program has 33 students enrolled for the 2011 spring semester and many of those students fit into two different demographics, Mann said. The students are either right out of high school, spending their first semester in college, or they are workers looking to update their skills.

The field of study includes a two-year degree and short-term certificates, Mann said. The short-term program is designed for students updating skills; the full associate degree provides them the opportunity to continue on to a bachelor’s or master’s degree.

The program also offers a co-op opportunity for students. Mann said it is a part-time employment, full-time student co-op program.

Due in large part to his work in this new degree field, Mann has received 2010-2011 Outstanding Postsecondary Achievement Award presented by the postsecondary division of the Alabama Education Association.

“Michael does all that you want and expect a distinguished, outstanding educator to do,” said AEA postsecondary division Vice President Dr. Susan Williams Brown.

Mann, who also won the 2010 NSF HI-TEC educator of the year, said even though the accolades are nice, he doesn’t lose focus on the task at hand.

“I think it’s great to even contend and I didn’t expect to win, but it’s humbling and an honor,” Mann said. “Winning awards is nice, but the real goal is educating students.”

~ Dale Liesch

Central Alabama Community College
CACC was founded in 1965 and today operates campuses in Alexander City, Childersburg and Talladega. The two-year college offers strong academic programs, state-of-the-art technical programs and day, evening, weekend, online and one-day-a-week classes.

Central Alabama Community College
1675 Cherokee Road
Alexander City, AL 35010
Dr. Steven Franks, president

2,447 students enrolled in the Fall 2010
52 faculty members and 136 total employees

CACC offers degrees and certificates in Nursing, Computer Science, Drafting and Design Technology, General Business, Industrial Electronics, Manufacturing Technology, Office Administration, Computerized Information Processing, Cosmetology and Machine Shop Welding
Short-Term Certificates are available in Child Development, Heating & Air Conditioning, Industrial Electronics, Welding, Machine Shop, Manufacturing Technology, Automotive Manufacturing, Industrial Maintenance, Industrial Automation Technology, Robotics & PLC Technology.

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