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Gateway as an Economic Driver for its Communities
By Bryan Albrecht

Posted on 2/20/07

At a recent meeting, several of our area legislators dubbed Gateway Technical College and its efforts to train our communities’ workforce, an “economic engine”. It confirmed that we are on the right track in how we address the needs of our key communities: students, employers, and the taxpayers.

That’s what career and technical education is today. An economic driver for its communities—preparing employers, employees, and tomorrow’s career professionals for success and growth. Gateway, serving Kenosha, Racine and Walworth counties, has taken a leadership role in improving the area’s economy by preparing the workforce for over 65 different career areas.

Students receive skill upgrade training or can seek associate degrees and technical diplomas in areas ranging from health careers to engineering and manufacturing; from protective services to business. Gateway hosts workshops and conferences to help our employers improve their workplaces. We provide customized training and seek grants to support specific training needs of employers. We are broadening the educational experiences of our students and instructors to become better prepared for the global economy.

Some interesting facts about Gateway illustrate the breadth of Gateway’s influence.
Since 1976, Gateway has served on average, between 25,000 and 35,000 credit and non-credit students each year from Kenosha, Racine, and Walworth Counties. The median age of a Gateway student is 31 years of age.

In a study completed one year ago by CCbenefits, a national concern that studies the economic impact of education in communities around the country, it was determined that nearly 2.5 million credit and non-credit hours of training are currently embodied by today’s workforce in the region’s businesses. This figure accounts for training received by degree-achieving students, those who enhanced their workplace skills by taking select classes, and customized training in the workforce.

Workforce solutions

Gateway is a leader in developing unique approaches to meeting the needs of employers. One of these, the Boot Camp approach to training, is particularly illustrative of Gateway’s role as an “economic engine”. Employers are facing a critical need for CNC operators and welders. Gateway worked with employers to devise a 14-week intense curriculum that prepares workers with entry-level skills. The Racine Workforce Development Center identified unemployed clients who were capable of learning and handling the work.

Ninety-four percent of those completing the first four CNC boot camps found employment. The average starting wage is $11.58 an hour; $12.55 an hour after working one quarter. Twenty-five regional employers have hired at least one CNC Boot Camp completer. Employers are getting much-needed workers with entry-level skills. The participants, some of whom were recently released from jail or are homeless, now are employed and supporting their families. The community gains taxpayers instead of tax burdens.

Gateway works with employers

Gateway works very closely with its employers in myriad ways. Gateway provides customized training to area businesses. The companies contract with Gateway’s Workforce and Economic Development Division (WEDD) for professional development workshops, technical assistance, and other educational services they need to be competitive in the marketplace. WEDD includes Gateway’s Advanced Technology Centers—each of these centers offers a different concentration of training opportunities for high-growth/high-need areas including telecommunications, information technology, bioscience, engineering, and manufacturing.

During 2006, 125 individual area companies were served and 3,469 student “seats” filled. In the five-year period from 2002 through 2006, 489 unduplicated companies were served and a total seat count of 17,143.

Nearly every type of business was served including community and government organizations, financial, healthcare, hospitality, manufacturing, retail, service and professional, transportation and utilities.

Employers also work with Gateway to ensure each career training program is aligned with current industry needs. Each program has a committee of industry advisors who share their insights with Gateway on their industry’s changing training needs and help identify future trends so the college can get out in front in preparing students.

Global education

Gateway understands employers’ need to compete globally. Gateway is dramatically increasing its commitment to international education by forming an international education committee of faculty and staff.

Instructors are being asked to develop a global component to their program’s curriculum to better serve our region’s employers—most of whom do an international business. It is vital our students can participate at that level.

To become more connected with domestic and foreign educational institutions with a similar commitment to international education, Gateway has joined several international education organizations. This year, for the first time in the College’s history, students are involved in an international education opportunity. A group of information technology students are spending time in Germany with students at a technical education institution there working on a networking and web development project.

Seamless Education

Gateway feels very strongly in its partnerships with secondary schools. In addition to the typical ways a technical college partners (through Youth Options, career days, etc.) Gateway has some unique partnerships. Lakeview Advanced Technology Center is a college in the later afternoons and evenings and a Kenosha Unified School District high school during the day. The high school draws students with high math and science skills to prepare them directly for the workplace or for college—most graduate high school with 19 college credits.

A similar opportunity is being developed at Gateway’s Horizon Center for Transportation Technology. When the center opens this fall, qualified high school students from our district will be able to access advanced automotive technology college courses at the center. They will earn college credit, utilizing the most advanced automotive technician technology available today.

These are but a few examples of how Gateway partners with its secondary schools, workforce development centers, and employers to proudly fill its role as Southeastern Wisconsin’s Economic Driver.

Bryan D. Albrecht is President of Gateway Technical College

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