Ben Funderburk started studying automation at OTC in the fall of 2022. Within a few months, Ben already had a new job in manufacturing working in the same building where he takes classes.
When Lebanon-based manufacturer DT Engineering became the first tenant of the industry partner space inside the new Robert W. Plaster Center for Advanced Manufacturing last fall, it paid off almost immediately. The company found an experienced employee among the Ozarks Technical Community College students taking classes in the PMC.
DT Engineering hired OTC student Ben Funderburk as a full-time automation technician just weeks after moving into the Plaster Manufacturing Center.
After graduating from Ozark High School in 2017, Ben started his college career at a four-year university. Without a clear idea of what he wanted to study, he took a break after a semester, then decided to attend OTC to become an electrician. Before graduating, he landed a job at a local biopharmaceutical manufacturer.
“I built power and control systems, then I became interested in instrumentation,” Ben said. “After getting a handle on that, I began looking at automation, which allows everything to work together. You push a button, and a product comes out.”
A childhood friend helped foster Ben’s curiosity about automation. The friend worked at an electrical supply company and allowed Ben to try things out in their automation training room.
“I felt like I was playing with really expensive toys,” Ben said with a grin.
With a natural interest and knack for automation, Ben enrolled in the brand-new automation and robotics degree program at OTC in the fall of 2022. DT Engineering moved into the industry-partner space a few months after the start of school and told instructors that it was looking for someone to work at their operation in the PMC.
“Ben brought a lot of experience to the table,” said Landon Vinson, OTC mechatronics instructor. “Ben was still working for his previous company, but DT Engineering made him an offer he couldn’t refuse.”
Now, Ben arrives at the PMC before 6:30 a.m. to begin his job with DT Engineering. At 8, he walks a few hundred feet to his classroom in the PMC to attend class. Then, he goes back onto the industry floor to finish his work day, where he helps develop automation and robotics tools for the pharmaceutical industry.
For Ben, things couldn’t have worked out better, “I’m lucky. I have a job in my chosen career while training to get better at it.”