On-site Mechatronics training lifts knowledge
The California Ski Industry Association selected the Sierra College Center for Applied Competitive Technologies to conduct “RoMec” or Ropeway Mechatronics training for technicians who maintain the ski lifts.
The partnership started in the summer of 2006 shortly after Sierra College launched the Mechatronics program that combines electronics, mechanics, pneumatics and hydraulics under computer control. In 2007, the college delivered two levels of training to 59 lift mechanics and operation managers, up from 43 participants in one course level offered in the first year. Based on the previous two years’ success, curriculum is under development to expand the program in 2008 to three levels: beginning, intermediate and advanced.
Equipment safety is a top priority for ski resort operators, according to Steve Hunter, Sierra College CACT Mechatronics trainer. In addition, he said that providing top quality maintenance reduces the amount of down time during the busy season. “The Sierra College CACT training was developed to address specific industry needs and provide technicians with in-depth training,” said Hunter. “Ski lifts are very complex and operate using advanced computer control with dozens of sensors, complicated electrical circuits, high pressure hydraulics, and large scale mechanical systems.” Kathy Hubbard, Deputy Director for CSIA, explained that although training in the past was done at the job site, there was a demand for a broader range of knowledge. “With this training program, the lift mechanics will know the whole system,” said Hubbard. “That knowledge prepares them to keep equipment functioning safely and efficiently.”
Hands-on, On-site Training
Students applauded the Sierra College CACT trainers’ knowledge and hands-on activities. They also benefited from the courses being held at the Sugar Bowl Ski Resort because they learn a technique and then see how it applied on actual equipment in the field. Students commented: “As far as electro-mechanics go, I learned more this week than the previous 10 years in the industry,” “The lectures were put into ways that were easy to follow for us real world people,” “The hands-on was key so that we could see and observe what happens based on the lecture,” and “Very helpful in filling in the gaps on things I thought I fully understood.”
The training addresses another need – filling the pipeline with more qualified employees to assume greater levels of responsibility, explained Hubbard. “There is a demand for lift maintenance technicians and resorts anticipate losing a significant portion of the work force through retirement over the next few years,” said Hubbard. According to Gary Campbell, CACT Mechatronics trainer, there are excellent opportunities for motivated individuals interested in entering this field. “Through multiple levels of specific hands-on RoMec training courses, Sierra College CACT is working with the ski industry to advance the skills of less experienced technicians so they’ll be prepared to fill the gap left by seasoned technicians who are retiring,” said Campbell.