Students, business leaders kick off MAT2 program at OCC

Oakland Community College welcomed dozens of area employers and some of Oakland County’s brightest technology students to the Auburn Hills Campus Tuesday to formally kick-off the 2014 Michigan Advanced Technician Training (MAT²) program.

The groundbreaking initiative, in its second year at OCC, is coordinated by the Michigan Economic Development Corporation and combines paid-work experience with three years of classroom instruction in the fields of mechatronics, information technology and technical product design. Tuition and wages are paid by corporate sponsors. Participating corporate sponsors so far have included: Brose North America, Heller Machine Tool, ZF Group, FTE Automotive, Volkswagen of America, Kostal Group, EMAG, Durr, Jenoptik, Kern, Link Engineering, Weil Engineering, Orbitak, Secure 24, BorgWarner Auburn Hills,  Pontiac Coil, Magna and American Axle.
Based on the German Dual Education System, MAT² integrates business and education to grow technology jobs and provides an innovative and efficient way to produce qualified workers. Students learn mechatronics, a combination of electrical, mechanical and electronic competencies that enable a technician to identify, analyze and solve systems-based problems.
“These are some of the smartest students in Oakland County,” said Timothy Taylor, president of OCC’s Auburn Hills Campus to a crowd of about 100 students, families and employers. “They figured out that to be successful in the workplace, you have to apply your skills. They’re going to school and the learning they’re doing is more than theoretical. It’s become relevant in the ‘real world.’”
MAT²  students will graduate with no student-loan debt while earning a competitive wage in an industry they enjoy, Taylor said. They’ll also get an early start on their careers with a guaranteed job in a high-demand field upon successfully completing the program.
Since MAT² launched in 2013, 18 students have begun training for various companies at OCC. The ceremony also highlighted 15 students that will take part in the program’s inaugural Information Technology cohort this fall. The initiative officially started last week with a technology ‘bootcamp’ at Grand Circus in Detroit.
“It’s been a pretty amazing experience so far and I’m excited to meet and start building relationships with the other students I’ll be seeing for three more years,” said Malik Fox, 19, of Farmington Hills.
Fox said he entered the Information Technology cohort with the intent to become a video game programmer, however, he’s already seen benefits MAT² can offer for several different career paths.
“This will help me learn so many other aspects of (IT) so I know I’ll be able to have skills that can translate into many other fields, not just what I know I want to do now,” he said.
Alex Ryszama, 17, said the first year of the program exceeded his expectations and ignited his passion for learning.
“The ability to learn something from a book or instructor and then apply it to something tangible is going to allow me such an advantage and opportunity to be successful,” he said.
“This was a perfect fit for him,” said Ryszama’s mother, Pamela, who attended the ceremony. “Anything he can do hands-on is a real plus and it’s been a great opportunity.”
Mike Gidley, Executive Vice President of Clarkston-based Pontiac Coil, commended students for tackling the rigorous coursework and application process to participate in MAT², which he said can fill a critical need in his industry.
“As a business owner, I struggle every day to hire people with the skill set that you will receive in this program — marketable skills that all the companies here have been chasing after and not finding in the job market,” he said.
About OCC: With five campuses throughout Oakland County, OCC is celebrating its 50th year. OCC is the largest community college in Michigan and the 25th largest in the nation. It offers degrees and certificates in more than 160 career fields and university transfer degrees in business, science and the liberal arts. More than a million students have enrolled in the college since it opened in 1965. To learn more about OCC, visit