Degrees aimed at regional industry

A manufacturing-focused higher education institution in Columbus is rolling out two new degree programs this fall designed to meet the needs of manufacturing employers across the city and the southeastern Indiana region.

Purdue Polytechnic Institute Columbus announced Monday the introduction of its new robotics engineering technology and supply chain technology degrees, which will launch with the start of the fall 2016 semester next week.

The two new bachelor of science degree programs grew out of demand from local employers for workers trained with the robotics and supply chain management skill sets, said Joe Fuehne, Purdue Polytechnic director and mechanical engineering technology teacher.

Purdue Polytechnic is a member of the EcO Network, a 10-county initiative across southeastern Indiana designed to meet the needs of employers through the education of employees, and Fuehne said employers in each of those counties, including Bartholomew, have been talking about the need for skilled robotics and supply chain workers for several years.

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Students in both programs will graduate with Bachelor of Science degrees from Purdue University, although Fuehne clarified that Purdue Polytechnic is its own educational institution and is not part of IUPUC’s connections to Purdue University.

The school’s robotics program also is tied to a similar program offered at the Ivy Tech Columbus campus. Students who complete a shorter robotics degree program at Ivy Tech can then transfer those credits to Purdue Polytechnic, where they can finish and earn their four-year bachelor’s degree, Fuehne said.

Like the five other degree programs offered at Purdue Polytechnic, Fuehne said the robotics engineering technology and supply chain management programs are designed to train students for careers in manufacturing.

About 30 to 35 percent of all jobs in Columbus fall into the manufacturing field, the school director said, but those jobs no longer require dozens of employees working on an assembly line.

Instead, most companies want four or five technically trained employees to monitor an automated assembly line, which is generally run, in part, with the help of robots, Fuehne said. Adding a robotics engineering technology degree to the school’s curriculum will train more workers to step into those jobs, he said.

Supply chain management employees can be found in any industry, not just manufacturing, Fuehne said, and he pointed to the opening Friday of the new Kroger Marketplace as an example. Kroger employees trained in supply chain management will be the ones deciding when to order different merchandise and when the merchandise should be placed on the shelf.

Whitney Ramer, Purdue Polytechnic student services coordinator, said a handful of current students so far have switched their majors to one of the new degree programs.

The two new degree programs were not included in the school’s catalogue until recently, but the fall 2017 incoming class should give a more accurate idea of how many new students are pursuing the robotics or supply chain management fields, she said.

Part of the appeal of Purdue Polytechnic is its balance of a large university curriculum with a small campus tuition, Ramer said.

Purdue Polytechnic degrees are the same as those of Purdue University degrees, but a student in West Lafayette will spend roughly $333 per credit hour while a student at the Columbus campus will spend $271.37 per credit hour.

Fuehne said the placement rate for graduates from the Columbus campus is generally slightly higher than for graduates in West Lafayette because of Columbus’ reliance on the manufacturing industry.

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Here are starting salaries for Purdue graduates in specific fields, with information provided by the Purdue University Center for Career Opportunities.

Computer information technology

Placement rate: 98.5 percent

Average salary: $62,522

Engineering technology

Placement rate: 89.3 percent

Average salary: $58,483

Industrial engineering technology

Placement rate: 95.8 percent

Average salary: $57,450

Mechanical engineering technology

Placement rate: 93.2 percent

Average salary: $55,743

Organizational leadership

Placement rate: 88.1 percent

Average salary: $43,294

Robotics engineering technology

Placement rate: 100 percent

Average salary: $49,713

Supply chain management technology

Placement race: 80 percent

Average salary: $57,450