Students Receive Hands-On Experience At SLCC
With one of the nation’s strongest economies, Utah has also faced one of its most demanding challenges: finding skilled workers to build infrastructure and increase economic growth.
But that all changed with Salt Lake Community College’s newest addition, the Westpointe Workforce Training & Education Center, which embodies the college’s responsiveness to industry and local economic needs and serves as a reflection of its commitment to being a regional leader in workforce training.
“At Westpointe, students receive hands-on education and experience in a number of important trades,” said SLCC President, Dr. Deneece G. Huftalin. “It’s not only been a boon to students but also to our region by allowing us to maintain our economic prosperity through the development of a top-notch workforce.”
Since its September 2018 opening, Westpointe has benefited students and businesses in the region by offering 13 active programs that train students on state-of-the-art equipment with the latest technology.
“It’s fantastic. Anytime you invest in students, you invest in the future,” said Rick Bouillon, SLCC associate vice president over Workforce & Economic Development. “If we help a student, it helps their family, and it helps the whole community.”
At Westpointe, training is offered in a number of high-demand areas, including welding, composites and plastics manufacturing, machining, diesel systems technology, and commercial truck driving.
One undeniable reason for the success of Westpointe is the strength of partnerships between the college and businesses, such as Kenworth Sales Company, Inc.
“I saw their commitment and said, ‘I can get behind that. I can commit when I see that there are others going in the same direction,'” said Kyle Treadway, president of Kenworth, which donated $400,000 to Westpointe. “I could see that it was a serious facility geared toward current technology—and that’s what we are lacking.”
Mr. Treadway said there is a national shortage of diesel technicians, citing U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics that show 67,000 Baby Boomers retiring from the industry coupled with a projected 12 percent growth rate within the next decade.
“We are in a crisis, and this is an investment to try and solve that,” Mr. Treadway added. “I could hire 45 technicians right now, today.” Within three or four years of attaining a one-year diesel technician certificate from SLCC, Mr. Treadway noted, the best technicians can be earning an annual salary in excess of $100,000.
“With the continued strength of the economy throughout the state, Westpointe fills a key need in industries that are vital to our sustained growth,” said Rob Brough, EVP, Marketing and Communications at Zions Bank. “It has had such an immediate, positive effect that Westpointe Center at Salt Lake Community College is the right solution at the right time for one of the most robust economies in the country.”
Leaders at Cummins, Inc., a global company that manufactures engines, filtrations and power generation products, agree.
“Throughout our 100 years, we have spent time and energy investing in our people, and those people are the lifeblood of our company and the lifeblood of our business,” said Jenny Bush, executive director of North America Distribution for Cummins. “Without employees like our technicians here, we would not be where we are standing a hundred years later.”
The partnership between education, industry, and government that made the Westpointe Center a reality is nothing new for forward-thinking Utah. The state, known for its knack of coming together to solve crises, prioritizes investments designed to keep Utah’s economy strong while preserving citizens’ high quality of life.
“I’m so pleased with what we’re seeing happening in this state and an increased emphasis on technical education,” said Tami Pyfer, Utah Governor’s Office Education Advisor. “Technical education is for everyone.”
Designed and built by architecture firms AJC and SRG, and contractor Big D Construction, Westpointe’s 121,000-square-foot building features 104 welding booths, 34 computer labs, a 3-acre commercial driving area, eight classrooms, a showroom, and a state-of-the-art diesel lab where students learn to repair and maintain diesel trucks, construction equipment, cranes and earth movers.
Westpointe also features a machine shop where students learn through hands-on projects and computer-assisted instruction to fabricate, modify or repair mechanical and precision instruments, machine parts and machine tools as well as learn how to maintain industrial machines.
Private donors to the Westpointe Center include: American Welding Society, Boeing, The Katherine W. Dumke and Ezekiel R. Dumke, Jr. Foundation, Kenworth Sales Company, Inc., Komatsu Equipment, Lincoln Electric Company, the Richard K. and Shirley S. Hemingway Foundation, Scott Machinery/International Bobcat, the Sorenson Legacy Foundation, Merit Medical, L3 Technologies, Kilgore Companies, Industrial Supply, Electron Heat, Cummins, Inc., and Frank Buckler.
Across SLCC’s campuses, 28,000 students are enrolled in career and technical education (CTE) courses. The college offers 106 CTE certificate programs and 32-degree programs, producing more than 27 percent of Utah’s career and technical education graduates.