FORT SILL, Okla. (March 21, 2019) -- The Choice Career College robotics course offered at the Fort Sill Soldier for Life Transition Complex (SFL) has increased from a two-week training to a 15-week program. The change came about because of student and industry input about the program, said Glenn Waters, Choice Career College representative.
"Students wanted more time on the robots so they could learn more skills to be more competitive in the job market," Waters said. "The robotics industry wanted the Soldiers to have a better baseline than just two weeks, and went with a 15-week model that we'll use for now."The longer training fits nicely with the Skill Bridge Program, which is a DoD initiative that allows service members to perform internships or civilian training opportunities during their last six months of service, Waters said.Through the Choice Career College robotics training students receive certifications in robotic studio simulations, robotic electrical troubleshooting and repair, robotics programming, and Computer Numerical Control, or CNC programming.The robot is extremely durable; it's the electrical components and hoses that you have to troubleshoot, Waters said.Choice Career College instructors train students on two robotics systems, FANUC and ABB, which are the two of the biggest robotics manufacturers, Waters said.The training is very hands-on, Waters said. The adult learning model is used where students get the training materials ahead of time and study them. Then they receive a lecture on it, followed by performing the work, and practicing it.Choice Career College is an accredited college. Its robotics training is worth 42 semester hours, which are transferable within the school, Waters said.The next class, for between 10 and 15 students, begins in mid June. "That's for the student-to-teacher ratio, and the student-to-robot ratio," Waters said.There are many vacancies in the robotics field as the older workforce is beginning to retire, Waters said. "It's kind of like the (baby boomer) truck drivers, and construction workers, who are retiring," Waters said. Only between 25 and 50 percent of the robotic technician jobs are being filled, so there's a huge gap.Choice Career College requires that service members use less than one year of tuition of their 9/11 GI Bill to complete the robotics training, Waters said. The college also offers its robotics training at its main campus in Des Plaines, Ill., for service members who cannot use the Skill Bridge Program because, for example, their separation date doesn't coincide with the SFL class starting date.
The campus is located just outside O'Hare International Airport.When students graduate from the program, they are guaranteed an interview with about a dozen major companies in the robotics industry, Waters said. Choice Career College has had a very high success rate with its graduates.The national entry level salary average is about $50,000, and within two years most people are jumping to $70,000 and $80,000, he said "If you came in the training with a background in information technology or electrical engineering, those salaries are even higher," Waters said. "We had one individual with an IT background and he got a job with Tesla and started at $72,000. Another Soldier who had an electrical engineering background started at $90,000."The robotics program at the Fort Sill SFL Complex is open to Soldiers from forts Sill, Bliss, Hood, Riley, and Carson, Waters said.