Industrial Technology Department continues to evolve with industry

Fresno State Industrial Technology class

The Jordan College’s Industrial Technology Department stands as one of its most innovative as it continues to adjust its curriculum to better align itself with the industry’s ever-changing needs.

The department has seen a notable evolution since the 1980s, a trend that parallels other university industrial technology programs across the country. Classes that were previously designed around materials and specific trade skills now also emphasize managing processes and systems.

Until that point, the industrial technology field’s primary focus was to produce teachers and educators.

Large companies started tapping industrial technology graduates to work in the management levels because they had both technical and people skills.

The curriculum shift has also included the addition of concepts like quality assurance, product management and operations.

With the added skills Fresno State’s 160 current undergraduate industrial technology students can find jobs as engineers in manufacturing, quality systems and processing and production supervisors, as well as in industrial and technical sales, design and testing positions.

To meet these needs, the department is developing new quality control systems and technology to improve processing.

“We have paid attention to the major shift in our discipline’s needs, and we’re still changing,” said Don Austin, Fresno State industrial technology professor. “More recently, we were one of the first departments around to teach online courses, and we have also offered interesting initiatives in computer networking. We’re seeing a boost in our enrollment because we’re diversifying into new directions, and students see the number of exciting job opportunities and good salaries.”

It was easy in the past to confuse industrial technology with engineering departments, but they now have uniquely different missions.

Fresno State’s industrial technology department takes pride in creating ‘technologists’ that know how to manage technology as a process or system compared to a specific technology.

For example, auto mechanics might now attend a community college to pick up job-specific skills. In contrast, a Fresno State graduate with similar interests might operate a garage and keep it up to date with the latest processes, equipment and management systems.

Fresno State industrial technology students still get hands-on technical lab experience, and the program also utilizes a team-work emphasis between faculty and students that build students’ confidence and skills for industry supervisory positions.

The department is also utilizing Fresno State’s unique set of agricultural resources, facilities, faculty and staff. Industrial technology departments often take on the flavor of area industry, and Central Valley agriculture production and processing accounts for nearly 35 percent of the regional workforce. Industrial technology courses and degrees can help prepare students for managerial positions in food processing systems and quality assurance programs for farming operations.

The fact that the agriculture industry is growing and its emphasis on adopting new technology makes industrial technology students attractive for jobs in the Central Valley and nationwide.

The precision agriculture minor has also proven popular since its addition in the fall of 2014. It has provided students with necessary skills in basic electricity and electronic, sensors and controls, applied programming and geo-spatial technology for site-specific crop management.

With the influx of new students, the department’s industry advisory board and the Jordan College’s new career center are helping better connect students with Central Valley companies and employers to get professional experience before they graduate.

“Our Jordan College’s professional development center is barely a year old, but we’ve noticed a lot of interest in our industrial technology students,” said Mary Willis, Jordan College Coordinator of Internships and Professional Experiences. “Jain Irrigation has been a particular successful supporter of our program since they have a former intern who is now in management. Among others, Bee Sweet has an industrial technology internship, and we’ve been working a lot lately with Compact, Sierra Pacific, Grundfos pumps, Landmark and Netafim irrigation among others.”