Secretary of Labor Thomas Perez takes a look at the innovations students are making at Lorain County Community College's SMART Center. Photo credit: Alex Delaney-Gesing | The Collegian

Secretary of Labor Thomas Perez takes a look at the innovations students are making at Lorain County Community College’s SMART Center. Photo credit: Alex Delaney-Gesing | The Collegian

Karl Schneider
Editor-in-chief

Every week, Ashley Hlavacik immerses herself in a growing number of manufacturing projects that companies bring to Lorain County Community College’s SMART Center. Hlavacik is a student intern majoring in electrical engineering at the college.

LCCC is providing students with invaluable internships in manufacturing and technology industries. United States’ Secretary of Labor Thomas Perez paid a special visit to the college’s SMART Center to check out the progress being made after receiving a multi-million dollar grant.

Mara Rice is a second year mechatronics major and also interns at the SMART Center. Rice, and the other interns provide a relationship between the manufacturing industry and higher learning within the county.

LCCC has recently been awarded $15 million through a grant that President Barack Obama pushed through with his Health Care and Education Reconciliation Act in 2010. The grant money helps augment the mechatronics and manufacturing programs on campus.

Student interns working at the SMART Center were able to present their work to the Secretary and talk about what opportunities LCCC provides for manufacturing majors.

“Some people ask me why I am optimistic about the future; it’s because I meet people like you,” Perez told Hlavacik.

Hlavacik began as a student of chemical engineering but soon found that she preferred electronic engineering better. Like Hlavacik, two other student interns presented their projects to the secretary.

“I plan on getting a job locally,” Rice said, a Lorain County native. She hopes that her training at LCCC will give her the right set of skills to obtain a job in the community after graduation.

The SMART Center on campus gives students the opportunity to work in industry standard clean rooms. Companies are able to vet the students and the equipment by giving the school projects to complete.

During the visit, LCCC President Dr. Roy Church told Perez about the college’s new initiative to bridge the gap between students and potential employers.

“We can provide a personal touch with the MyEmployer guarantee,” said Church. Employment engagement is critical to the success of these programs. LCCC is bridging that gap with the mechatronics and manufacturing programs.