The goal of Gateway Technical College’s advanced technology center is, in part, to help add more bullet points to its students’ resumes.
School officials say those bullet points wouldn’t be possible without the strong partnerships with area businesses that allow the curriculum to be focused, customizable and stackable.
About 35 business leaders from Faribault, Owatonna, Waseca and the surrounding region spent Tuesday morning in Kenosha, Wis., for the final leg of a tour of Gateway’s advanced technology center. In just a few hours, they took in Gateway’s Horizon Center and the Snap-On Innovation Works facility.
The tour is part of South Central College’s visioning process for a similar center to be included in a $13.3 million remodeling and expansion project currently underway at the Faribault campus. It’s the hope of SCC President Annette Parker that a similar partnership can be established for an advanced technology center in Faribault.
“Our cornerstone is our collaborations with our community,” Gateway President and CEO Bryan Albrecht told the group. “It’s the businesses that we work with, everyday, that help us align our mission with making sure that our students are entering the workforce successfully.”
It was in 2006 that Gateway and Snap-On Industrial first talked about a partnership model centered on automotive diagnostics. Snap-On identified a skills gap common among technicians in the automotive industry that hurt productivity: Technicians used only 15 to 20 percent of their advanced diagnostic tools’ features and capabilities.
Another concern was that as vehicles became more complex the tools used to repair them followed suit, meaning a need for students to be trained to a higher level of technical skills. The solution was found in Gateway’s Horizon Center — which the group toured on Tuesday — paired with Snap-On sponsored certifications. That partnership has become the National Coalition of Certification Centers, or NC3 for short.
In NC3, instructors from across the country come together twice a year for train the trainer programs. They earn a certification and then bring the curriculum back to teach at their school.
The key to Gateway’s strong partnership with Snap-On, according to Albrecht and Frederick Brookhouse, is high integration in programs, services and even brand identity.
“When you walk around the different facilities you may get confused with who works at Snap-On and who works at Gateway,” said Brookhouse, education partnership leader at Snap-On. “That’s because we work together, we talk to each other, and we’ve gotten to a point where we talk and think alike.”
The partnership is visible in other ways too. Snap-On tool kits and other materials are common finds at Gateway’s iMET and Horizon Centers.
At the Horizon Center, Snap-On’s certification courses include automotive and diesel service bays as well as a hydraulic/alternative energy lab and a diagnostic lab.
Matthew Janisin, NC3 instructor/coordinator at Gateway, said the curriculum is based on industry input.
“What does the student need to get employed?” Janisin said. “That’s what we keep in the front of our minds as the curriculum is developed.”
The answer to that question, Janisin said, is two-fold: A tool set, and experience and application. Students are given the option of buying a Snap-On tool set upon entering the courses, or they can check out tools as they study and get a set upon graduation. Meanwhile the experience and application piece is built into the curriculum with labs and then real-life problem solving.
The key, Janisin said, is students being able to add another bullet point to their resume.
“Our students leave with the tools they need, both physically and intellectually, to succeed in the workforce,” he said.
Reach reporter Rebecca Kurie at 333-3128, or follow her on Twitter.com @FDNRebecca