WEYERS CAVE, Va. (WHSV) — Mechatronics is a field you may have not heard of, but it combines electronics with mechanical engineering.
Stephen Anderson was getting out of the Navy, with a background in aviation. He thought he would wind up out of state, but the Hershey Company in Stuarts Draft came calling.
Anderson got interested in mechatronics after starting the job interview process.
"I got a call that this was available and thought, 'Chocolate, how is that going to translate over from my Navy experience?” said Anderson.
"There's a lot of machines that break the chocolate down, a lot of machines that mix the chocolate. There's a lot of things you have to work on. It encompasses the whole program when it comes to electrical, mechanical as well as robotics," he said.
Anderson works as a mechatronics apprentice for Hershey and is getting hands-on training.
"I feel like the apprenticeship is the way to go. It helps people that are looking to get into this kind of career field, as well as the company, that they can train people the way that they want them to be,” added Anderson.
Anderson is spending this semester at Blue Ridge Community College entering in programs to simulate all kinds of things a robot can do.
According to statistics gathered by the Shenandoah Valley Workforce Development Board, the expected yearly salary range for a mechatronics technician apprenticeship is between $37,424 and $57,610.
Over the next decade, there's a projected need for 65 of these jobs in the region. Most require a bachelor's degree. Some require an associate degree or a post-secondary certificate.
"If you're lucky enough to get the opportunity for it, take it and make sure you're willing to work for it. All you need is an opportunity. You just have to work for it," said Anderson.