(WACO, Texas) – Programmable logic controllers, or PLCs, are the brains behind industrial automation.
The digital computers can be found in industries such as automotive, chemical, mining, pharmaceutical, and water and wastewater treatment. PLCs can operate using five programming languages.
“They (PLCs) sit patiently waiting for responses, which are called inputs, from integrated components to then decide when, where, why and how long something should occur and then decide what happens next,” said Corey Mayo, lead instructor in Texas State Technical College’s Robotics and Industrial Controls Technology program at the Waco campus.
Students in several of TSTC’s technical programs are learning the PLC skills needed to stand out in the job market.
Students in the Automation and Controls Technology program at TSTC’s Marshall campus take two classes in PLC automation. Some of the companies that have hired program graduates are TraC-n-trol Inc. and Vitesco Technologies.
“If we teach (students) how to create control systems, they can more easily learn to troubleshoot them because they know what is behind the curtain,” said Troy Powledge, an instructor in the Automation and Controls Technology program.
Students in TSTC’s Electrical Power and Controls program take a PLC class in their third semester, focusing on logic schemes and microcompressor controls. Paul Withers, the program’s senior instructor at the Waco campus, said students take the class only after they have taken the Motor Control class in the second semester.
“A technician needs to have an understanding of what these systems are capable of, how they function and interface with other equipment, and how to monitor, modify and upgrade to more modern controls,” Withers said.
Some of the Texas jobs related to PLCs currently posted on Indeed.com are paying at least $80,000 a year. These include automation and controls engineers, industrial maintenance technicians, and process control engineers.
Illinois-based LAUNCH Technical Workforce Solutions is a staffing company specializing in the aviation, diesel and manufacturing industries. The company is currently recruiting for a company in Fort Bend County, where TSTC has a campus.
“Finding people with experience working with PLCs is incredibly challenging,” said Ryan Hair, the company’s recruiting operations manager. “It is a premier skill to gain and to learn and could be an invaluable asset for anyone now and down the road in his or her career.”
Mayo said the fact that his Robotics and Industrial Controls Technology students can identify the parts of a PLC goes a long way with TSTC’s industry partners. He said being able to troubleshoot and understand programming is a bonus.
“PLCs are everywhere and only becoming more commonplace to improve a company’s output,” Mayo said.
Registration continues for the fall semester at TSTC. For more information, go to tstc.edu.