Western Nevada College receives grant for Applied Industrial Technology program

Western Nevada College student CJ Straw builds and tests an electrical circuit in the Applied Industrial Technology program hands-on lab class.

Western Nevada College student CJ Straw builds and tests an electrical circuit in the Applied Industrial Technology program hands-on lab class.

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Western Nevada College has received a grant to purchase Department of Labor approved equipment, course development, grant management staff assistance to students and program support for the college’s newly expanded Applied Industrial Technology program.

New equipment was funded 100 percent of its total cost from a grant awarded under the Trade Adjustment Assistance Community College and Career Training Grants, as implemented by the U.S. Department of Labor Employment and Training Administration.

The College also received a $25,000 grant from the WNC Donald W. Reynolds Foundation for capital improvements to the facility. The Western Nevada College Foundation worked in collaboration with the College to secure the Reynolds grant. The foundation will continue its philanthropic endeavors to raise the remaining funds for facility expansion and remodel from private donations and foundations.

The TAACCCT grant program is funded by U.S. President Obama’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.

AIT is aimed at helping Nevada meet the anticipated demand for skilled industrial technicians in manufacturing, distribution and logistics. The manufacturing sector is projected to increase by 30 percent in the next five years, according to the Governor’s Office for Economic Development. The program was designed using feedback from current students and local employers who reported that turnover was high and the new employee labor pool was small.

As more high tech industries expand and relocate to Nevada, a skilled workforce becomes 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.

Emily Howarth, lead instructor in the Automated Systems and Industrial Technology programs for the College, 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.

“Applied 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,” Howarth said. “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.”

The College first offered the Associate of Applied Science — Technology degree, including individual emphasis in construction, machine tools, automated systems, welding and general industrial technology in the fall 2013 semester. New emphases for the program this year are the Manufacturing Tech series of classes to prep for the MT1 exam, and offering the Certificate of Achievement.

Also new this year, the college is offering a stackable credit schema that allows students to move through the program at their own pace, collecting additional credentials along the path to the associate’s degree. Each step in the process ensures a steady stream of trained workers for new positions in manufacturing, logistics, and distribution and provides incumbent workers training opportunities to help further their careers.

“The 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,” Howarth said. “Students 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.”

Howarth said the program is designed with non-traditional students in mind.

“People who already work in manufacturing often face long shifts and rotating schedules, so the traditional model of classroom ‘seat time’ wasn’t going to work,” she said. “Students 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.”

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 college’s long term goals for the program.

Information about contributing to the Western Nevada College Foundation’s efforts to continue to improve and expand the AIT program can be found at http://www.wnc.edu/foundation/.


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