Hawkeye Tech Debuts Facility Focused on Robotics and Automation

(Radio Iowa) A Cedar Valley community college has opened a robotics and automation center geared toward developing specialized skills for manufacturing jobs. Hawkeye Community College’s Automation and Robotics Center was five years in the making. The center, located in a refurbished Waterloo John Deere factory, hopes to train high school graduates in automated manufacturing technologies. Center director Kent Wolfe says he’s seen the need for the Cedar Valley manufacturing labor force firsthand.

“There’s a tremendous need for more workers to fill those jobs,” Wolfe says, “but even more importantly, workers that have these skills to work in smart manufacturing.” The center has transitioned from a high school curriculum to a fully-fledged, three-semester adult learning program in just five years. Thirty percent of participating area high schoolers went on to continue training in the manufacturing sector during those five years. Wolfe says that engagement with high schools laid the groundwork for the center and the future of area manufacturing.

“That was kind of to fill an immediate need and to get that started in the high schools,” Wolfe says, “but we’re really focused on the current workforce, and that’s going to be our longer-term focus.” This fall marks the first for the center’s adult-oriented curriculum.

(Grant Winterer, Iowa Public Radio)