Renovated Facilities, Degree, Funded Through Grant

Thanks to a $4 million STEM Pipeline grant awarded in 2011, Arizona Western College’s Automotive facilities have been recently renovated and aging equipment replaced.

Now, the welding facilities at AWC are next on the remodel list.

After completion of the renovation of the automotive facilities, training has been conducted with new state-of-the-art equipment also purchased through the grant. Welding renovations and equipment purchases are currently underway for the welding facility, which include a fume extraction system and a welding simulation machine, for example, as well as the building of two new classrooms.

While the automotive remodel and equipment purchases were about $813,000 total; the welding renovations are estimated to total about $1,803,000.

The continued renovations of the welding space are projected to take place over the next two years with equipment being purchased during the last year of the grant, in 2016. The new classes, however, are expected to be ready by spring.

Infrastructure renovations, however, weren’t the only changes being funded by the grant. A pathway to a new bachelor’s degree was also created.

Incoming students, as well as those who have already received their associate’s degree in Automotive Technology, Industrial Technology or Welding Technology, now have the opportunity to receive their bachelor’s degree in Industrial Technology Management. A business degree, students can complete the program through Northern Arizona University – Yuma, which has not been previously offered to students.

Wanda Reid, the advisor and outreach coordinator for the STEM Pipeline grant, said that students previously had the opportunity to receive an associate’s degree in these fields, but they couldn’t further their education with a bachelor’s degree as it was nontransferable to the university level. Reid said the reason being that the classes didn’t incorporate all the necessary requirements to transfer to a university.

“Students who have already taken the nontransferable classes can now go back and take a few more classes and move in to their bachelors all without having to leave Yuma,” said Reid, noting that they have mailed out notices to students who have previously completed associate’s degrees in applied sciences to let them know about the new program.

As part of the bachelor’s degree, students will complete a capstone project which will place them out in the community in the areas that they’re trained in.

“They will be working on real management problems in a company,” she said. “We also want companies in the community to know that these programs are being offered, that NAU is going to be producing students with managerial skills that also have a trade area emphasis.”

With a growing demand for education in these fields, as they are a growing component of the Yuma economy, Reid said that the program will now provide students with the education and experience needed to advance their knowledge and abilities in key industries.

Students also have the opportunity to take courses in elective areas such as solar panel installation.

“It doesn’t have to be a one size fits all. In fact, I have students who are getting the Industrial Technology Management degree and who are taking construction classes, classes in the construction trades, industrial maintenance, and some are even talking a mixture of automotive and welding classes. I have a few students who want to start their own business designing sand rails, for example, so they want to have the welding background and the automotive background and put those classes into this Industrial Technology Management degree.”

The grant also funded new staff including someone to not only to teach courses for the Industrial Technology Management degree, but also work in conjunction with AWC on curriculum modification. It also funded personnel to cover areas of outreach, advising, supplemental instruction, tutoring and labs.

Reid said that in addition to working through the advising process with students at the college-level, she is also responsible for working with students in local high schools to let them know what is available at AWC and NAU-Yuma and what classes they need to be taking to prepare for the degree. A large number of high school students she’s talked with have been interested in pursuing a bachelor’s degree, she said.

The AWC Foundation is also working to start scholarships for students pursuing degrees in trade areas. They’re also asking for industry to contribute to scholarships as well, as the programs will provide highly trained individual in Yuma for them to hire.

“The whole emphasis is if you train people in their community, generally they will stay in their community,” Reid said.

For more information about classes and the Industrial Technology Management degree program, contact Reid at 317-6170.

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