McALLEN, RGV – Festo, a worldwide leader in automation and industrial training and development, will send one of its top executives from Germany to McAllen next Thursday for a unique certification ceremony.

The Office of Industry Training & Economic Development and the Institute for Advanced Manufacturing (IAM) at South Texas College will be recognized for developing the first Festo-certified training center for robotics and industrial automation in the United States.

The STC ceremony starts at 10:00 a.m. on May 28 at the STC Technology Campus in McAllen. Andres Alcantar, chairman and commissioner representing the public on the Texas Workforce Commission has confirmed his attendance at the ceremony.

“We are proud to have achieved this certification,” Carlos Margo, interim associate dean of industry training and economic development at South Texas College, told the Rio Grande Guardian. “The Festo Certified Training Center for Robotics and Industrial Automation is the first of its kind in the nation. It will open a world of opportunities for students and companies who are utilizing automation technology. Giving students the opportunity to earn a globally recognized certification is going to make them more valuable in the workforce.”

Festo, which has 17,800 employees in 176 countries, says its mission statement is the maximum productivity and competitiveness for customers in factory and process automation. Asked to explain who Festo is, Margo said: “Festo is a global, a major multinational company, headquartered in Germany. They provide a lot of industrial control and automation equipment for manufacturing companies. They also specialize in higher education, providing equipment and trainers for the purpose of providing education and training for industrial applications in automation and robotics.

“As part of their education line they have a process whereby they can certify a center or an organization as a Festo-certified training center. That allows that organization to provide credentials to individuals or trainees who complete a certain number of training hours or courses. They in turn receive an actual Festo certificate. Our instructors here at South Texas College have become certified instructors in Festo technology and so they now can be the providers of this instruction and through them we can provide training and certification for trainees.”

Among the local manufacturers that use Festo equipment, Margo said, are Alps Automotive, Cinch Connectors, Coca Cola, Fiberio Technology, Fujitsu Ten, GE Energy, Grand Rapids Foam Technologies and Royal Technologies.

Margo said he believes the Festo certification will help local economic development corporations lure more manufacturing companies to the Rio Grande Valley.

“Everything we do here is tied to economic development. I think this certification will not only help our students but help the economic development corporations around the Rio Grande Valley as they try to bring manufacturing companies to our region. Companies on both sides of the border will be able to benefit,” Margo said.

“Essentially what we are doing is replicating what advanced manufacturing is today. That has a lot to do with automation, their conversions to automation and automated systems. We are looking to replicate that to provide training, to get workers from industry up to par when it comes to those skills. We also want to make sure industry knows that they can count on us to provide this training for their employees.”

Ernesto Avila, project manager for Institute of Advanced Management at STC, is one of two instructors at STC to receive Festo Trainer certification said: “We are very proud. We are the first center in the United State to be a Festo-certified center. There are others in Europe, the Middle East, South and Central America and Mexico. The first equipment from Festo arrived here two and a half years ago. We have had 500-plus hours of training to become well-versed in the different Festo technologies. Our final audit was completed last April.”

Avila said the Festo Certified Training Center will provide the local workforce with state of the art training and globally recognized credentials in different technologies of advanced manufacturing and industrial automation. Among these, Avila said, are pneumatics, electro-pneumatics, mechanics, sensors, stepper and servo motor technologies, programmable logic controllers, and industrial robotics.

Editor’s Note: The main photo that accompanies this story shows South Texas College’s Ernesto Avila and Carlos Margo with Festo robotics equipment at the STC technology campus in McAllen.