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Virginia Western program preparing workforce for new manufacturing company

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ROANOKE (WSLS 10) - A multi-million dollar auto parts manufacturer credits its decision to come to Botetourt County to a skilled workforce trained at Virginia Western Community College.

Governor Terry McAuliffe announced Tuesday that Eldor Corporation will bring 350 jobs to the region.

Many of those tech jobs could be filled with students in the mechatronics program at Virginia Western.

When walking into the classrooms at Webber Hall, you'll notice automated machinery that to the unfamiliar eye may look like something from a science-fiction movie; however, it's far from it. It's actually advanced equipment that is currently a staple to manufacturing companies worldwide.

Dan Horine, the head of the mechatronics department, said that also includes companies in our region.

"A student can work in Roanoke, they can work in Virginia. They can work anywhere in the world. And I think that is very exciting for our youth to have those opportunities."

The mechatronics department at Virginia Western teaches students how to operate, troubleshoot and even design the elaborate systems that are now the heart of manufacturing.

"It's like an intelligent operator, someone that owns the process. That's what the industry told us they were looking for," said Horine.

Horine said the program at Virginia Western is unique because it holds the top-notch Seiman certification that industries like Eldor are looking for, meaning the department's 70 students are shoe-in's for careers in the field.

"The whole value of an education is knowing what to do with an education. Our students know what to do with it," continued Horine.

One of those students is Jared Jones, who started attending Virginia Western when he was still in high school.

He's one of the top students here at using the 3D printer to make useful items from scratch, as well as troubleshooting some of their automated machinery.

It's a specialized skill set Eldor was looking for.

"It's really cool to know that our program here basically brought a company to the region that is so sophisticated that they basically develop parts for high-end vehicles like Ferraris and others," said Jones.

And even cooler that students here are almost guaranteed to one day be working for that company. Horine says more companies like Eldor could soon be on their way to the area.


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