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Minnesota West to launch mechatronics program: AGCO Jackson awards scholarships

JACKSON -- Seeking employees with specialized skills for its workforce, AGCO Jackson awarded scholarships Monday to five young adults who will study either welding or mechatronics at Minnesota West Community and Technical College this fall.

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ndividuals earning scholarships from AGCO to complete either the mechatronics or welding program at Minnesota West Community and Technical College are Alfredo Barajas (from left), Daniel Magana, Jesus Adrian Soto, Ricardo Gayton Soto and Noe Verdin. (Julie Buntjer/Daily Globe)

JACKSON -- Seeking employees with specialized skills for its workforce, AGCO Jackson awarded scholarships Monday to five young adults who will study either welding or mechatronics at Minnesota West Community and Technical College this fall.

The newly introduced mechatronics program is a combination of Minnesota West’s former fluid power and industrial technology programs. Mechatronics will be offered at the Granite Falls campus in place of fluid power, and at the Worthington campus in place of its industrial tech program. In Worthington, the mechatronics classes will be taught at Minnesota West’s Center for Career Education, formerly the Worthington Fire Hall.

The mechatronics program will prepare students for technical positions in areas of robotics, industrial manufacturing and maintenance, fluid power, instrumentation, electronics and process control automation.

AGCO Jackson offered three $4,000-per-semester scholarships in the two-year mechatronics program at Worthington. The recipients, all from Worthington, are Jesus Soto, Ricardo Soto and Alfredo Barajas. Meanwhile, the company offered two $2,000-per-semester scholarships in the one-year welding program at Minnesota West’s Jackson campus to Daniel Magana of Worthington and Noe Verdin of Jackson.

Amber Luinenburg, director of marketing at Minnesota West, said the college is offering the mechatronics program to meet the demand of the region’s workforce. Companies like AGCO, Fagen Industries and JBS have all expressed a need for employees trained in industrial manufacturing and related areas.

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The college offered an intensive 10-week mechatronics program for 16 AGCO Jackson employees at its Jackson campus this spring and summer. The employees, who were laid off in early May, were offered the opportunity to complete the program and learn new skills to be able to work in other areas of the plant.

“Their skillset wasn’t where it needed to be, and that’s kind of what precipitated all of this,” said Brad Quinn, AGCO Jackson’s manager of training and development. “All of the equipment -- tractors, spray equipment -- is becoming more technical. We need to get our employees the technical knowledge so that they can successfully troubleshoot the problems that we’re having with (equipment) and be able to program the modules and those types of things.”

Quinn said the employees who chose to complete the program came from all areas of the plant, including maintenance, welding, painting and assembly.

“When they’re done, they’ll have knowledge not only for their area they work in, but they’ll be able to go in other areas of the plant and expand that so it makes us stronger as a team,” he said. Previously, AGCO had two employees complete a pilot mechatronics program in Marshall.

With the scholarships presented Monday, Quinn said AGCO is getting a “pipeline of people” into jobs that not only will help them in their future, but in AGCO’s as well.

“The (workforce) demand is so much greater than (employers) can fill in these specific areas,” Luinenburg added. “Industry is so desperate they’re offering scholarships … they’re offering the training, offering the job, connecting the pieces for workforce education.”

“It’s an industry-wide problem,” said Quinn, noting that part of the problem is the stigma attached to manufacturing jobs.

“The manufacturing industry has evolved so much that it’s not a sweatshop or dirty environment,” he said. “That’s what a lot of kids think until they come here.”

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To counteract the perception, AGCO is reaching out to guidance counselors and educators, encouraging them to meet with students who aren’t interested in attending a four-year college.

“Those kids who aren’t necessarily college-minded can make a good living here,” he said.

In addition to presenting the five scholarships Monday, AGCO is also offering the scholarship recipients jobs at AGCO. They will work at the Jackson facility during summers and holiday breaks.

“We want to get them engaged and have them as part of our workforce as quickly as we possibly can,” Quinn said.

AGCO announced the scholarship program during a recruitment event at the Jackson campus in May that included promotion of the Minnesota West programs in welding and mechatronics.

The scholarships will cover all but $400 of the $8,400 tuition for the mechatronics program per year, and cover more than half of the $7,800 tuition for the welding program.

Related Topics: EDUCATION
Julie Buntjer became editor of The Globe in July 2021, after working as a beat reporter at the Worthington newspaper since December 2003. She has a bachelor's degree in agriculture journalism from South Dakota State University.
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