New TCAT instructor brings passion for robotics, manufacturing to community

Published 9:57 am Wednesday, January 8, 2020

Charlie Phillips has been in the manufacturing business for roughly two decades, but a strong passion for the field and its possibilities for markets all over the country led him to begin teaching students about his experiences and what they need to expect, starting in Elizabethton.

“There is a huge demand in the market that needs to be filled,” Phillips said.

Phillips began teaching Advanced Manufacturing at the Tennessee College of Applied Technology in Elizabethton at the beginning of November, bringing his experience in the workforce right to students who need it most.

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This experience started after graduating Happy Valley High School in 1990 and going to TCAT in electronics. He then went to Northeast State a few years later. He worked at a number of engineering and manufacturing jobs in the area before going back to school and graduating from Milligan in 2015.

He said employers are realizing the benefits of automation because of the need to match competition in the market.

“If we can get the proper training, that can create more lines and relocate more jobs here,” he said.

Contrary to popular belief, Phillips said he does not see companies cutting jobs due to automation. While the job growth might be visibly smaller than simply opening up more factory jobs themselves, he said advanced manufacturing training is not only a rapidly growing field, but the training can take a student just about anywhere, from designing tools at Snap-on or granola bars at Quaker Oats.

“Look over the next 10 years at how much of the demand is going to be here,” Phillips said. “It looks fabulous.”

Robotics is a large part of automation in the industry, and students get to work with the actual machines they would use in the real workplace. He said this part of the experience drives student interest in the program.

“I see a lot of interest with students and businesses,” he said. “It has been very exciting.”

Similar to electronics or psychology, advanced manufacturing is a field that is rapidly evolving over time, requiring Phillips to constantly make sure his curriculum is up-to-date, even for a relatively short, two-month time period since he started. Rather than being a detriment to his job, however, Phillips said he sees this as one of his favorite parts about the industry.

“One of the most exciting things is being able to give students the ability to be successful,” Phillips said. “We are making an impact in the community.”