The IGEN Career Pathways Grant helped Southwestern Illinois College to transform its manual machining program into a state-of-the-art Precision Machining Technology program that now ranks among the best in the state. The grant was the catalyst that allowed SWIC to develop a new curriculum, modernize facilities, acquire new equipment and build strong and lasting relationships with high schools in the district.
One of the most important components of the college’s modernization project is the addition of computer labs and CNC equipment that are on par with modern manufacturing facilities. The college purchased five CNC machines including a multi-axis machine made by Haas Automation, Inc. and a coordinate measuring machine made by Romer. This new equipment is essential for teaching students the latest skills and competencies which are sought by employers.
College relationships with local industry are of great benefit to both academic programs and students. During a typical academic year, more than 50 metalworking companies are active in the SWIC Industrial Technology Advisory Committee. These companies provide advice on curriculum, equipment purchases and career opportunities for students. They also donate equipment and supplies to SWIC technical departments.
Haas Automation, Inc. is the largest machine tool builder in the western world. The company is also a leader in supporting education programs at technical and career colleges. The relationship between SWIC and Haas ensures the college receives discounted pricing and consignment on the most modern equipment in Haas’ inventory. “Coordinating with Haas has been great for SWIC and our program graduates. With their help, students have access to the latest technologies,” says Bosworth, Precision Machining Technology Program Coordinator.
“We also have an excellent participatory relationship with Ehrhardt Tool and Machine Company,” says Bosworth. Ehrhardt Tool and Machine Company is located in Granite City, Illinois, and is a precision, contract, tool, die and special machine builder. The company’s leadership works with SWIC to ensure that the college is meeting industry needs for future technicians. To this end, Ehrhardt provides scholarships and employment opportunities for current students and graduates. The company promotes careers in the metalworking industry by co-sponsoring an annual National Manufacturing Day event with SWIC. In 2014, these activities included facility tours for more than 600 high school students, plus displays and information booths for more than 30 manufacturing companies from the Metro East and St. Louis region. “With Ehrhardt’s support and involvement, our graduates understand the needs of industry and are well prepared. We are very fortunate to have the relationship that we do,” says Bosworth.
Prior to 2011, students from southwestern Illinois who wanted to pursue a degree or certificate in Precision Machining Technology only had one option, attending an expensive private college in St. Louis. With the help of the IGEN Career Pathways grant as well as industry, Metro East students can now earn an equally impressive education at SWIC for a fraction of the cost.