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
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.
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
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