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Taylorsville Journal

Westpointe(ing) students toward careers

Aug 29, 2018 04:06PM ● By Jana Klopsch

Westpointe Center is a unique training and education facility. (Jet Burnham/City Journals)

By Jet Burnham | j.burnham@mycityjournals.com 

Salt Lake Community College’s new Westpointe Workforce Training & Education Center, located at 1060 North Flyer Way, houses 13 career and technical education programs that address the deficit of trained workers in industries such as machining, welding, diesel systems technologies, solar, composites and plastic injection molding. 

“We get a student through here with a high level of theory and technical expertise, then they go out into the industry, and they’re a value-add the moment they walk in,” said Rick Bouillon, associate vice president of workforce and economic development at SLCC.

Local companies are clamoring to invest in the future of their industries by donating to the center. More than $1.5 million has been donated by companies such as C.R. England Inc., Cummins Rocky Mountain, Geneva Rock Products, Komatsu Equipment, Utah Transit Authority, Kenworth Sales Co., Komatsu Equipment, Lincoln Electric Co., Boeing, American Welding Society, Scott Machinery/Intermountain Bobcat, Grainger and Kilgore Companies. Additional partnerships are currently in negotiation. Due to these monetary donations and the $43 million allotted by the Utah State Legislature, SLCC can provide the programs with more space and better equipment than they had at their previous campuses. 

The machining industry is invested in SLCC’s training program to ensure the training of its future workforce. (Jet Burnham/City Journals)

 “The companies didn’t give us the money just to put a sign up,” said Bouillon, though some have received naming rights of labs and classrooms. “They did it to invest in students. And by investing in students, they invest in themselves.” 

Local companies have also provided materials, equipment and faculty for the programs. 

Judy Fisher, program manager of the Solar Technologies program, part of the Energy Institute of the Division of Workforce Training and Continuing Education, said solar companies want to be involved in training future solar workers to ensure industry standards are upheld. Instructors who are working in the industry can provide up-to-date information on building and electrical codes. 

“They need to tell us what they need these people to be capable of doing and then we need to make sure that’s what we build in the curriculum,” said Fisher. “We’ve been really lucky in getting some incredibly skilled instructors to come in who love doing this. They don’t mind that they’re potentially training people to go to work for their competitors. They just want people who know what they’re doing.” 

Industry leaders guide faculty members in the development of program curriculums through Program Advisory Committees (PAC). 

“We design a program with the learning outcomes for a student to be successful for employment,” said Bouillon. “Collectively, we try to put together the resources for a student and a company to be successful.”

The state-of-the-art facility provides a bird’s-eye view of classroom labs. (Jet Burnham/City Journals)

 Brent Smith, programming coordinator of Machining, said input from PAC meetings has directed their instruction to provide a strong base of knowledge employers can build on. 

“They all want us to still teach manually machining,” said Smith. “Even though they might be running computerized equipment, they want their employees to have the manual machining background.” This enables program graduates to immediately progress to job specific training once they are hired. 

Art Santana, a machinist and member of the National Tooling and Machining Association, said the industry is growing, while a majority of the workforce is nearing retirement. NTMA, in conjunction with state sponsors, provides scholarships for machinists entering programs such as the one at Westpointe. They place students in apprenticeships to ensure experienced machinists pass their skills on to the next generation. 

Some industries are depending on programs such as Westpointe’s Diesel Technician Pathways Program to replenish their workforce. 

“The entire skill trade market is in high demand right now,” said Nate Ferrara, program coordinator of Diesel Systems Technology at Westpointe. “We’ve got 65,000 baby boomers who are going to be retiring in about 2022. So, we need to train people pretty quick.” 

SLCC’s Pathways Programs for Diesel Systems, Aerospace, Medical Innovations and (currently in development) Information Technologies introduces high school students to educational career paths they may be unaware of.

Scott England, vice president of molding at merit medical, said the medical device industry wouldn’t be able to grow without a workforce trained in plastic injection molding, as provided by SLCC. 

Merit Medical, like other companies, also relies on SLCC for advanced employee training. In what Bouillon calls a “stackable credential model,” program graduates return to SLCC for advanced training necessary to progress in their careers. 

Miguel Nieto-Palma, from the SLCC Admissions Department, said the bigger space at Westpointe campus can accommodate these courses. The welding department has not only doubled the amount of workspaces for students, they also have a separate shop specifically for community partners to train employees in new tools and technologies.

Westpointe classes began on Aug. 22. More information about Westpointe can be found at www.slcc.edu/westpointe/ .

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