For most people the word "mechatronics" may as well be something ripped out of a science-fiction novel in which robots have enslaved humanity. But for a handful of Catoosa County students, it's about to be their lives.
Georgia Northwestern Technical College is throwing open the doors to its new campus in Ringgold today, and included in the curriculum are several fields of study designed to equip the next generation of students.
The Ringgold school, one of six Georgia Northwestern Tech campuses in the region, will offer three new programs — mechatronics, cybersecurity and logistics — in addition to core and introductory college courses for the 130 students enrolled for the fall semester.
Leaders at the 60,000-square-foot facility say technical training is coming not a moment too soon, because the region has a burgeoning need for highly skilled workers.
"Now and in the next few years, a huge number of technical and skilled workers will be retiring, and these jobs will need to be filled," said Leigh Ann Pettigrew, interim manager for the Catoosa County branch. "We are very excited about the new campus opening up and being here for our Catoosa County community."
Pettigrew said the three new specialties are especially suited to Catoosa County, and she highlighted the need for each in and around Ringgold.
"Transportation is a large part of our community with [Interstate 75] and the Murray County inland port and distribution in our area," she said about the logistics program. The same need is also apparent in mechatronics and cybersecurity as industries in the county grow, she added.
County government personnel praised the school's opening, saying it would help satisfy the demands of already established businesses while attracting new entrepreneurs.
"Our industry, they're always looking for skilled labor," said Katie Thomason, economic development coordinator for the Catoosa County economic development authority.