Cowley christens Center for Technical Excellence
Several members of the Cowley County community came out to show its support for the Center for Technical Excellence in Winfield during a ribbon cutting ceremony held on January 30. The center, located at 1108 Industrial Road in Winfield, was created thanks to a partnership between Cowley College and the Winfield Economic Development Incorporated.
Rodger Steffen, President of Winfield Economic Development Incorporated, which owns the building and made the arrangements to provide the lease to Cowley College and the various other entities that will be involved in the project, is excited about the partnership. Steffen said when manufacturers came together in several meetings over the last couple of years it was obvious there was a need in the community and county that was not being met in terms of training.
“Cowley College really deserves a lot of credit for coming to the table and bringing this to reality in a very short time,” Steffen said. “The demands were there and Cowley among others really stepped up. Sandy Randel and Bruce Crouse put in a tremendous amount of work and they are the ones who have built the program.” Crouse serves as Cowley College’s Chair of Career and Technical Education, while Randel is the coordinator for the Career and Technical Education Department.
Cowley will teach a series of courses with the Manufacturing Business Skills certificate program. Cowley will also launch its new Mechatronics program in the fall, which will give students skills on how to repair automated systems.
Cowley received a $125,000 grant from the Kansas Department of Commerce to help launch the program. Cowley also has plans to write an Innovative Technology grant this spring to try and secure additional funds for the program.
Crouse was pleased with the turnout at the ribbon cutting ceremony. “It’s overwhelming to see the turnout and interest for the Mechatronics program and the interest in developing the plastics industry in the community,” Crouse said. “We are seeing support from all sides of the community, not only plastic manufacturers, but other manufacturers in the community are supporting the Mechatronics program because it supports their areas as well.” Everyone agreed there is a real need to get qualified workers for industry in Cowley County.
Cowley College is also working with Winfield High School to bring in Project Lead the Way students, which is made up of high school students interested in engineering. “I see that as an advantage to the high school and it will also help our program long term to get more of those students,” Crouse said. Marvin Estes, superintendent of schools in Winfield, has been involved in a lot of partnerships in several different districts. He feels strongly about this partnership. “The one that is strongest about this partnership is the involvement of industry,” Estes said. “I think that is the key. If you can get industry to benefit, then schools and colleges can form a stronger partnership. This is a serious partnership and I feel great about it.”
Lisa Roberts, Cowley College director of business and industry, is excited about what this means in terms of promoting economic development in the county. “Not only does it reflect our commitment to make sure we are providing industry driven solutions with education, but also pulling education and training together to make sure it facilitates overall opportunities for economic development,” Roberts said. “Who knows what will spring out of here, with the minds of the high school students and current employees given an opportunity to let loose with the tools in front of them, the possibilities are endless.”
Warren Porter, Jill Long, Craig Duncan and Stan Ahlerich join Steffen on the Winfield Economic Development Board. The board is looking forward to the future of the Center.
“This is just the beginning, but as we continue to add to it we hope it develops into a true Center for Technical Excellence, which combines a number of different things together,” Steffen said. “To promote entrepreneurship, quality workforce, and great new ideas that come out from individuals working toward a common goal of providing employment and wealth in the county.”