New sequence at UTM could better prepare graduates for jobs

The University of Tennessee at Martin has announced a manufacturing sequence to its engineering degree program, which will begin in fall 2017.

The announcement came from Dr. Bob LeMaster after an uptick in manufacturing engineering jobs and the learning curve that many alumni face after getting jobs in factories. LeMaster says it’s one of two such undergraduate programs in the South. The other is at the University of Miami.

This will be the first addition to the UTM program’s four sequences — electrical, mechanical, civil, and industrial — since 1996.

Austin Lenagar will graduate with a degree in mechanical engineering next fall. He says he already knows where he wants to work and what he wants to do: manufacturing car parts.

Lenagar says he has a job lined up after completing a summer internship. If he could do college over, he says he would opt for the manufacturing sequence, because it would have better prepared him for the job. “Most of the things I did they had to teach me, because I didn’t know about manufacturing engineering yet,” Lenagar said.

That’s why LeMaster feels strongly about the addition to the program. “Where our students were finding jobs versus what we were training them at, we could probably do a better job if we focused on the manufacturing issues,” he said.

If you take the number of manufacturing jobs and divide that by the number of people in Tennessee, the state ranks 12th in the nation.

A lawnmower manufacturer in the area, MTD, says focusing on manufacturing is a good idea. Tony Harris is the engineering, maintenance, and finishing systems manager and says a graduate with this under his or her belt is more likely to be looked at fresh out of college. Harris says he likes to have three to five years of work experience in addition to a degree, because he says: “A big facility like ours can be pretty overwhelming,” and he thinks this will help. 

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