Western Nevada Collegeâ€™s Applied Industrial Technology program has received $200,000 from the U.S. Department of Labor Trade Adjustment Assistance Community College and Career Training III Grant for program and new equipment support, and a $25,000 grant from the WNC Donald W. Reynolds Foundation for capital improvements to the facility; and will continue its philanthropic endeavors to raise the remaining funds from private donations and foundations.
The TAACCCT grant program is funded by President Barack Obamaâ€™s 2010 Health Care and Education Reconciliation Act, which includes $2 billion over four years to provide community colleges and other higher education institutions with funds to expand and improve career training programs that can be completed in two years or less.
The AIT program at WNC aims to help Nevada meet the anticipated demand for skilled industrial technicians in manufacturing, distribution and logistics. The stateâ€™s manufacturing sector is projected to grow by 30 percent in the next five years, according to the Governorâ€™s Office for Economic Development. The program has been designed using feedback from current students and local employers who reported that turnover is high and the new employee labor pool is small.
As more high tech industries expand and relocate to Nevada, a skilled workforce will become critical. The state of Nevada Department of Employment, Training & Rehabilitation reports Nevada manufacturing currently employs more than 55,000 workers, with a projected employment growth of more than 19 percent over 10 years. The economic impact of manufacturing growth is projected to be in the billions of dollars.
Professor Emily Howarth, who leads WNCâ€™s Automated Systems and Industrial Technology programs, said the program is designed to train technicians, the middle-skill technical experts who install, maintain, upgrade and program a variety of systems and equipment in manufacturing facilities.
â€œApplied Industrial Technology is a broad term that means the front line, hands-on work that is being performed by technicians in a variety of industrial settings,â€ Howarth said. â€œIt includes everything from food production to semiconductors to metalworking. This broad-based approach provides a great base of skill and knowledge to build from and creates the groundwork to specialize.â€
The college has offered an Associate of Applied Science – Technology Degree with individual emphases in Construction, Machine Tool, Automated Systems, Welding and General Industrial Technology. New emphases for the program include the Manufacturing Technology series of classes to prep for the MT1 exam, and the Certificate of Achievement.
Now, the college has added a stackable credit opportunity that allows students to move through the program at their own pace, collecting credentials along the path to the associate degree. Each step in the process ensures a steady stream of trained workers for new positions in manufacturing, logistics, and distribution, and provides workers training opportunities to help further their careers.
â€œThe classes, equipment, lessons and degree plans are in tune with both fundamentals that are essential for technicians, and industry trends and technology that evolve over time,â€ Howarth said. â€œStudents understand that if they successfully complete the programs, employers will look at them as job and promotion candidates. And employers have a clear view of what is being taught and the actual skills being practiced, so they can set reasonable expectations for job candidates and plan on-the-job or in house training.â€
Howarth said the program is designed with non-traditional students in mind.
â€œPeople who already work in manufacturing often face long shifts and rotating schedules, so the traditional model of classroom â€˜seat timeâ€™ wasnâ€™t going to work,â€ she said. â€œStudents who are self-motivated, interested in learning, curious about new systems and desiring to get ahead do very well in this model. There are no boundaries to their success.â€
Public and state money represent only 20 percent of the funding source for the ongoing program improvement. Strategic partnerships, private sector investment, economic development grants, and college funding resources will combine to fund the Industrial Technology facility expansion in order to meet the Collegeâ€™s long term goals for the program.
Information on contributing to the Western Nevada College Foundationâ€™s efforts to continue to improve and expand the AIT program can be found at https://www.wnc.edu/foundation/