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UWindsorENG launches new weekend mechatronics program

Sandro Gabr is one of 31 working professionals taking advantage of UWindsor's BEng Tech Mechatronics program now offered on weekends.

A new weekend technology program offered by the University of Windsor is helping local companies meet market demands.

The Bachelor of Engineering Technology (BEng Tech) degree, originally designed to create a pathway from college to university, is now available on weekends for working professionals to expand their expertise in mechatronics, industrial automation, robotics, manufacturing and engineering operational functions.

“Companies heard about this and expressed a great deal of interest,” said Dr. Mehrdad Saif, UWindsor’s dean of engineering. “We thought why not do it on weekends for these types of students and put in place more courses around the theme of mechatronics and industrial automation. As an engineering school in Windsor, we have an obligation to meet the needs of the community and industry.”

The program allows skilled trades professionals like Michael Elachkar 40, of Zion Robotics & Controls, to complete a degree while continuing to advance their career.  The father of two, who graduated from St. Clair College with a three-year electronics engineering technology diploma in 1999, said he jumped at the chance to further his education without disrupting his family life and career.

“We have the practical knowledge and the university is bridging the gap between our work experience and the theoretical aspects of the job. It’s making us very well-rounded and will increase our talent level and make us more competitive,” said Elachkar, the director of new business at Zion Robotics and Controls, a local company that specializes in automation programming at a global level. "We decided to invest in our employees and as a result will be reimbursing all of the tuition for full-time employees to complete the program. That's how much we believe in this program.”

More than half of the 31 students currently enrolled in the BEng Tech program are from Valiant TMS. The global company based in Windsor that serves the automotive, aerospace and heavy industry sectors is also subsidizing tuition for its employees.

“We need our people to understand life cycle,” said Pete Naysmith, director of services and spare parts for ValiantTMS Corporation. “How do I come up with a solution to a problem that’s cost-effective and robust? A technician out of a two-year school doesn’t have that ability and our customer demand is getting higher. This program allows our technical people to realign their skills with our customers’ needs.”

Tony Elias, the Chief Executive Officer of Valiant TMS Global Operations, said to stay competitive in a global market, they’re beefing up their engineering department with Programmable Logic Controller (PLC) programmers, which are some of their highest paid positions in the company and a career path for BEng Tech graduates.

“Industry 4.0 and making smart tools — that’s where we’re going,” Elias said. “We’re competing with places around the globe. The exciting part is we can be cost effective in North America.”

The BEng Tech program is open to those with a three-year technology diploma from a Canadian college, an engineering degree from an accredited Canadian university or a four-year university degree in a scientific or technical subject from a Canadian university. It’s also open to those with the same qualifications from an equivalent overseas institution.

For working professionals, it can be completed in four semesters. On a full-time basis, it can be completed in three consecutive semesters — one full year. Graduates will be prepared to pursue or advance their careers in automation, product design, testing, development, systems engineering, field engineering, technical operations and quality control.

“It also opens doors for future work with our bordering country,” said Cam DiMario, a 47-year-old installation and launch manager for PLC and robot programmers at Valiant Machine and Tool. “I am very appreciative of the university supporting local industry and of our company supporting us with this program.”

For more information, please visit the BEng Tech program webpage