Tuesday, December 29, 2020

Referendum Projects to Benefit Local Industry, Workers

Article Photo - Referendum Projects to Benefit Local Industry, Workers

When Chippewa Valley Technical College included a 10,000 square-foot addition onto the Manufacturing Education Center (MEC) to house an Automation Fabrication Lab as part of the spring referendum projects, it directly responded to a need expressed by local industry.

That project was the first to get underway with a Nov. 9 groundbreaking. As of Christmas week, the walls were going up. The expected completion by the start of the Fall 2021 semester is good news for CVTC students and employers in need of training incumbent workers. Likewise, with the 110,000 square-foot Transportation Education Center (TEC) scheduled for completion in June 2022.

The new space at MEC will include robotic welding cells, laser cutting technology and metal fabrication equipment. This equipment will combine skill sets in welding, mechanical design and machine tooling. It will be used by multiple programs and area employers working with CVTC’s Workforce Resource and Continuing Education team.

Jeff Sullivan, dean of apprenticeships, engineering, manufacturing and IT, said the lab will be capable of taking a flat piece of steel that can be cut, formed to a shape and welded, all without human intervention.

“For years, our advisory committee members were talking about using robotics in our welding curriculum,” Sullivan said. “Now, our equipment will work with robotics to fabricate products. Industry is moving toward automation to make up for the labor shortage.”

Sullivan likened the situation to the early 90’s when the machining industry moved away from manual machines to computerized automation, with CVTC taking the lead in training new and incumbent workers. He envisions local businesses upgrading to automation and needing more worker training.

“The training could be applying the technology to new processes, integrating it into existing processes or keeping the equipment up and running,” Sullivan said.

“Right now, our transportation programs are located in multiple buildings without a lot of room” Adam Wehling, dean of agriculture, energy and transportation, said. “In the Transportation Education Center, upgraded program spaces can also be available for Workforce Resource and Continuing Education training, and we’ll be using some of our common user-friendly spaces for Workforce Resource and Continuing Education training and events.”

An example of this training is paint booths that companies could use to test new products, and a dynamometer for simultaneously measuring the torque and rotational speed of an engine. Wehling also sees TEC being the site for advanced training in drone usage. A new Ag Service Technician program will be housed at the facility, allowing for possible use by businesses in the ag sector for demonstrations and updating incumbent workers’ skills.

“We will be able to pull large equipment right into the lobby and have seating for 200 people for showcase events,” Wehling said. “This is going to be a showpiece facility.”

Referendum projects will be completed over the next three years. Rod Bagley, director of facilities, said everything is on schedule. At MEC, the addition should be enclosed by mid-February. At TEC, construction drawings are completed, and construction begins in April.

Construction bids are due in April for a major addition and remodeling at the Emergency Services Education Center, which also has tremendous implications for training of existing workers in the areas of Law Enforcement, FireMedic, Paramedic and EMT. Construction is to begin in May or June with completion in June 2022.

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