Gateway Technical College Elkhorn Campus Launches First Midwest Micro Machining Advanced Manufacturing Lab
By Dana Runimas-Plazyk
Reporting for Precision Plus
Recently, I had the pleasure of talking with Dr. Bryan Albrecht, President of Gateway Technical College (GTC), about the launch of a micro machining (Swiss screw machining) advanced manufacturing facility at the school’s Elkhorn, WI Campus.
When Albrecht joined GTC as its president in 2006, he was charged with creating curricula that directly responded to the need for a highly skilled workforce by Southeast Wisconsin employers, imperative to have in place in order to grow the local economy. He began his tenure by holding “listening sessions,” with local businesses, to enable GTC to understand that need.
The requests were vast and included a ready workforce need for manufacturing, HVAC, IT, health sciences, aeronautic, automotive, hospitality, law enforcement and everything in between. Over the last nine years, many programs have been developed and are successfully in place, addressing the needs of the local business community. Today, Gateway Technical College operates from three campuses in Racine, Kenosha and Walworth counties, and offers advance technical certificates, associate degrees, technical diplomas, and certificates, some online classes, and dual enrollment options with the University of Wisconsin, Parkside.
“On an annual basis, 23,000 students attend Gateway,” says Albrecht. “We currently offer 100 certificate programs and 65 degree programs. Last week alone, we graduated EMS technicians, certified police officers, and SharePoint developers. Additionally, we are working with primary and secondary schools on K12 articulation.”
However, Albrecht points out that in as much as the workforce needs of manufacturers in Kenosha and Racine counties had been met, GTC “couldn’t wrap up” their thoughts for the needs of manufacturers in Walworth County.
He recalls meeting Mike Reader, President of Precision Plus, in 2012 at a career and technical education advisory committee meeting. “Mike’s concern about the lack of a qualified workforce to address the requirements of Walworth County manufacturers struck a chord,” says Albrecht. “Mike and Precision Plus were adamant about changing the situation, and had launched, single-handedly, an educational initiative geared to correct this issue, while bringing attention to–and gaining the support of–educators, organizations and legislators.”
“Changing the situation would also require higher-level technical education,” reflects Albrecht. “Both the Racine and Kenosha Campuses offered associate degrees in manufacturing and machine tool, as well as CNC programs. None was available in Walworth County.” Albrecht recalls Reader’s words: “We have to get this done, Bryan.”
Albrecht considers Mike Reader “a true champion,” who enlisted the help of fellow manufacturers, vendors, customers, legislators, educators, students, and organizations to “get things rolling.” A preliminary study conducted by GTC indicated Walworth County was one of two national hubs (the other being Kosciusko County, IN) for Swiss-type precision manufacturers (micromachining), and that the absence of technically skilled employees to run the specialized equipment, made it hard to grow the local economy.
Albrecht presented Gateway’s Board of Trustees with a plan: To expand the Walworth Campus to include a state-of-art manufacturing center, offering the traditional manufacturing programs already in place at the other two campuses, plus a unique Swiss screw (micromachining) advanced manufacturing program. The latter, would make Gateway Technical College the first institution in the Midwest to offer this specialized training, also contributing to better position Wisconsin in the overall global market.
The current plans for the new manufacturing center include remodeling of the the Elkhorn Campus South Building and an expansion which will bring the total area dedicated to the center to 4,000 sq. ft. The center (yet to be named) will house welding, fabrication, rapid prototype, computer aided design (CAD), engineering, and full-scale precision machining labs. The footprint construction will start in November with an estimated Spring of 2016 completion date.
GTC’s Manufacturing Center officially opened over the summer by offering a Youth CNC Boot Camp, a program designed for high school seniors to finish the school year with a high school degree and a CNC operator certificate.
The CNC adult programs will begin to be offered at the Elkhorn Campus in September. “We have recently added two new instructors, as all CNC classes at all three campuses are fully enrolled,” adds Albrecht.
Equipment has been steadily arriving to the new manufacturing center over the last couple of months, and Albrecht reiterates that the total endeavor would not have been possible without Mike Reader’s resolve, his ability to see the big picture, and his talent to simultaneously engage all the pieces that were needed to make the center a reality.
Thus far, four brand new Haas ST-10 lathes, one Tsugami S205 CNC Swiss machine, and an MTA barfeeder are already in place thanks to the tremendous help from Brad Morris of The Morris Group, and Jamie Schwartz of CNC Indexing & Feeding Technologies. Precision Plus not only assisted with the equipment installation, but also with a generous donation of $50,000, which facilitated the purchase of the equipment. Plans are to have at least eight Haas machines, 4 turning and 4 vertical machining centers, when the center is in full operation.
Industry support for GTC’s manufacturing center has been unprecedented, notably, a long-term agreement reached by GTC with Hanan Fishman of PartMaker who will provide computer aided manufacturing (CAM) software for students in the center. Also, a recent $2,500 tool donation by Grainger for the CNC Boot Camp, will contribute to the student experience.
On August 15, 2015, Mike Reader and Mark Beilman, Director of Education and Training at Precision Plus, toured the repurposed space housing the equipment. “We met with Dean of Students Michael O’Donnell and instructor JD Jones,” mentions Reader. “We had a great meeting and everyone is excited about the new equipment rolling in.”
The next few months promise to be exciting for the Elkhorn Campus of Gateway Technical College, and for the local industry, community, and economy. Precision Plus thanks Dr. Albrecht for his time to conduct this interview, and looks forward to continue to report on the progress of Gateway Technical College Elkhorn Campus’s new manufacturing center.