Lawrence Tech launches ‘fast track’ certificate for defense manufacturing

Lawrence Technological University has introduced a new “fast track” graduate certificate, Manufacturing Systems for the Defense Industry, to help engineers who have been displaced in the auto industry make the transition to the growing defense industry in Southeast Michigan.

In developing the certificate program, Lawrence Tech worked with defense suppliers such as Raytheon and General Dynamics, military planners at TARDEC and TACOM in Warren, economic development specialists at Automation Alley and employment specialists at the Oakland County office of Michigan Works!

“I’m especially proud of this unique partnership between government, higher education, and industry, coming together for the common good and with the common goal of educating and putting Michigan professionals back to work,” said Lawrence Tech President Lewis N. Walker in announcing the new graduate certificate program.

Classes begin in January for the first cohort of 25 students. A total of 75 engineers are expected to start the certificate program in 2010. Returning students must hold a bachelor’s degree in engineering or a related academic program.

The 15-credit hour graduate certificate program, which can be completed in two semesters, consists of five engineering or manufacturing courses that concentrate on military and defense acumen. Defense industry experts will serve as guest instructors throughout the program, and defense contractors will visit campus to conduct job interviews with participants.

“It will provide qualified engineers with a new career path in the defense industry. The goal is to offer defense industries a new pool of qualified potential employees with needed skills who can contribute to those organizations on day one,” Walker said.

Nationwide, the Army has a growing need for engineering expertise, and Army planners project its employment in the Detroit metropolitan area will grow from 6,500 today to 9,800 by 2015. Most of those jobs will be filled by civilians with advanced degrees. Defense contractors are also expected to add jobs.

Massive layoffs in the automotive sector has created a surplus of engineering expertise in the Detroit area on which defense contractors have been eager to capitalize. But employers were initially disappointed by the inability of some automotive engineers to adapt to a different manufacturing environment.

“We heard that some automotive engineers just weren’t ready for the transition,” said Lisa Kujawa, assistant provost for enrollment management. “Even though the engineering skills required were similar, the work environment, the scope of the projects, and the security requirements were substantially different.”

In putting together the curriculum, Lawrence Tech administrators and faculty members listened closely to recommendations coming from the defense industry in order to develop the series of courses that prepare returning students for that specific work environment.

“Close cooperation with private industry and government was the key to developing a certificate program that serves the needs of the defense industry, Kujawa said.

The new certificate program will be directed by Associate Professor Kingman Yee of Lawrence Tech’s A. Leon Linton Department of Mechanical Engineering, who is also director of the master’s degree programs in automotive systems and engineering in manufacturing systems.

Lawrence Technological University,, offers nearly 100 undergraduate, master’s and doctoral degree programs in Colleges of Architecture and Design, Arts and Sciences, Engineering and Management. Founded in 1932, the 4,500-student, private university pioneered evening classes and today has a growing number of weekend and online programs. Lawrence Tech’s 102-acre campus is in Southfield, and programs are also offered in Detroit, Lansing, Petoskey and Traverse City. Lawrence Tech also offers programs with partner universities in Canada, Mexico, Europe, the Middle East and Asia.