ATETV Episode 21: Industry/Community College Partnerships

Last week we focused on the demand for technician jobs, green and otherwise. This week we’re looking at how community colleges are teaming up with industry leaders to meet that demand.

“We couldn’t exist without the technical college,” says Jill Heiden of ESAB Welding and Cutting Products in South Carolina. “They create the students that help us produce our products.”

And because these students are so vital, industry has taken an active role in their education. “Industry partners are valuable at helping you develop curriculum in the college,” says Elaine Craft, head of the South Carolina ATE Center. “You discuss what it is that they need and how you can best meet those needs.”

That industry/education partnership is going strong in South Carolina, but it’s an important part of ATE programs across the country. At The College of the Mainland in Texas, Process Technology students like Umair Virani are learning how to use the same equipment in the field at major oil refineries. Umair actually has a bachelor’s degree in chemistry, but he decided he wanted hands-on experience that would let him work in an environment outside the lab.

Finally, we visit the Video Simulation and Game Development program at Wake Technical Community College, which is located near the Research Triangle in North Carolina, a hotbed of the game industry. Wake Technical’s Kai Wang says one of the missions of the program is “trying to meet local industry demand” from those game makers.

To accomplish that, the school asks the industry for input. “We work very closely with industry representatives, advisory committees, and they really drive what we train individuals on,” explains Wake’s Robert Grove. “When students are finished with us, they are ready to enter the workforce because we have designed that program based upon what they have told us to do.”

Whether it’s video game design, oil refining or high-tech manufacturing, employers are looking for specific skills. By working with them directly, community colleges are making sure that the lessons they are teaching are preparing students for the real world.

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