The trend since the 1980s has been to consolidate university ceramic engineering departments into larger, more generalized materials science and engineering programs. Most of these departments touch on issues specific to the engineering of ceramic materials, but for the most part, students hit the job force or graduate school with a nominal knowledge of ceramics.
Only two programs in the United States still offer BS degrees in ceramic engineering: Alfred University and Missouri University of Science and Technology, so it is encouraging to hear of another program that is doing well at training students for careers specifically in ceramic engineering.
Hocking College, located in Southeastern Ohio, offers more than 50 associate degree programs including one in Industrial Ceramics Engineering Technology. According to its website, the ICET program is the only one of its kind that trains technicians to work in the ceramics industry.
Gail Jordan, who runs the program said in a phone interview, “We train technicians and production supervisors for the glass and ceramics industry.” He said there is a niche for students who have training specific to ceramic materials. “Many of the companies that hire our graduates are small plants with a minimal number of engineers. They can’t really afford too many university graduates,” he said.
The program is production oriented and Jordan says graduates also find employment as quality control technicians, firing supervisors and supervising of other plant operations. Jordan says promotion prospects are also very good, “Graduates that are interested in a supervisory track, often find themselves working as assistant plant managers, and some eventually become plant managers.”
The curriculum and lab are focused on manufacturing and production. Jordan says, “Most of what we have in the lab is production equipment. We teach the students how to use particle size reduction tools and classification screens. We have equipment for most ceramic forming processes, like dry pressing, slip casting, ram pressing and extrusion. Also, we place a lot of emphasis on combustion heating of kilns, furnaces, dryers, etc. We do a little bit with electric heating, too, but the majority of manufacturer are using combustion heating, so that’s our focus, too.”
The program prepares students for careers in construction materials, consumer goods, industrial products (refractories, abrasives, nuclear applications, etc.), electronic components and advanced applications (fuel cells, aero and auto, biomedical, etc.).
The employment prospects for graduates seem enviable, too. Hocking College dean, Bernard Hinton said in a phone interview that the school receives 4-6 job postings for each second year student. Hinton and Jordan both said that starting salaries for graduates of the program are in the $37-$57 range. The high end, says Jordan, “are mostly nontraditional students, who bring something more to the party.”
Founded in 1968, the college is located near the Ohio Valley’s robust pottery industry of the early- to mid-twentieth century, where ceramics traditionally has been an important part of the industrial base—so much so, in fact, that the members of the local high school sports teams are referred to as “the Ceramics.”
Hinton said in a phone interview, “The [ceramics] program was one of the premier programs when the college was founded, and it has always been a mainstay of our industrial programs.”
The college just completed an expansion of its Logan Campus, and held an open house this week to showcase the new Engineering and Technology Center, which houses the ceramics program. The new facility includes Holl Lab, a 5,000 square-foot lab with over 80 pieces of testing and processing equipment. The lab is named for Barton Holl, former president and CEO of Logan Clay Products.
This year, the program has 18 first year students enrolled in the ICET program. Overall, 150 students are enrolled at the Center. Hinton says the college draws students mostly from the region, but they are working to expand the program.
With 4-6 job postings per graduate, there are 3-5 jobs left wanting. If you know a young person who is hands-on, has an engineering-type aptitude and is looking for a university alternative, have them look up this gem of a program.