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Friday, March 11, 2011

Forsyth Tech Lands $40million Grant for High-End Softward to Train Students for Caterpillars' Needs

Forsyth Tech grant will train students on high-end software used by Caterpillar, others

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Forsyth Technical Community College has been awarded more than $40 million in software that will help students compete for the type of high-end manufacturing jobs that will be available at Caterpillar.

Siemens PLM Software awarded the grant, the largest in-kind grant the school has ever received.

"This will just add to our arsenal of what we can give these kids when they come out of here," said Todd Bishop, the program coordinator of Forsyth Tech's mechanical engineering technology program. "The more exposure we give students, the more well-rounded they are when they leave here."

The grant covers the cost of outfitting 40 computers with product lifecycle management software, a type of software used extensively by such manufacturers as Caterpillar, General Motors and Boeing.

Bishop described it as "cradle-to-grave" software that covers all aspects of a product's design, from accounting to analysis to quality control.

"This is really powerful software that will open the door for students to apply to companies that pay more,"Bishop said.

Courses on the software will be integrated into Forsyth Tech's mechanical engineering technology and machining technology curricula.

The school already teaches a similar software program but offering students a chance to learn Siemenssoftware will help them even more when they enter the workforce, Bishop said.

The knowledge should come in handy when Caterpillar starts hiring next year. An understanding of the software won't guarantee a job with the company, but it will give students an advantage, he said.

"Will it be a requirement to get a job there? No. But the experience and familiarity with it may help your credentials," Bishop said. "It will help a potential student get a closer look."

The grant is part of a Siemens initiative that provides the software training to students at schools around the world. Bishop's first contact with Siemens came before last summer's announcement that Caterpillar planned to put a new manufacturing facility in Winston-Salem.

Caterpillar and Siemens have worked together for years, which worked in Forsyth Tech's favor when Bishopdecided to apply for a grant from Siemens.

"Everything sort of fell into place," he said.

The software probably will be installed at Forsyth Tech this summer and be offered to students in the fall,Bishop said.

Caterpillar officials have acknowledged that Forsyth Tech's ability to customize worker-training played a pivotal role in its decision to build a $426 million manufacturing and assembly plant off Union Cross Road near Glenn High School, where it will make truck axles. At full production capacity, the facility is expected to have a workforce of 392 full-time and 118 contract workers.

Bishop said the plant building may be finished by the end of this year, but production isn't expected to start until 2012 and that Caterpillar would most likely hire the bulk of its workforce that summer.


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