Gateway Innovative Enhanced Operator Program Welcomed New Students

After months of planning and collaboration between industry partners, the Advanced Manufacturing Workforce Development Coalition and Gateway Community and Technical College, Gateways new Enhanced Operator program welcomed its first students.

Angie Praisewater instructs new studentsOrientation for the 28 students enrolled in the 16-week Enhanced Operator program was the beginning of a new way of doing business for Gateway and industry leaders. The enhanced operator program is an innovative collaboration between Gateway and its manufacturing partners, said Carissa Schutzman, Vice President of Gateway Workforce Solutions. We asked local industry leaders to help us design a competency based curriculum that is driven by their specific needs. The Enhanced Operator program represents a paradigm shift from requiring students to sit in a seat for a determined amount of time, to the ability of the student to demonstrate skills and move through at his or her own pace. This is a shift from supply side educational offerings to demand side.

The Kentucky Community and Technical College System is a national leader in competency-based education, and Gateway intends to build on this, stated Dr. Keith Bird, Interim President/CEO of Gateway Community and Technical College. We are committed to engaging NKY's outstanding employer collaboration and close industry alignment to create a system of competency-based credentials. These credentials can be stacked toward higher credentials and provide immediate entry into the workforce, or transfer into four year colleges and universities. Im proud to say that Gateway is on the forefront of this national effort to create an efficient, affordable pathway to careers.

This partnership between industry leaders and Gateway has streamlined the curriculum from what would have traditionally been 25 credit hours, to a focused curriculum based on the job profile for the Enhanced Operator. Students will complete the program in half the time of traditional curriculum, for half the cost.

Northern Kentucky employers are struggling to find Enhanced Operators due to a lack of developed skills. Partners for Competitive Workforce coordinated a partnership between the industry employers and Gateway Community and Technical College to develop a competency-based certificate program that would satisfy the skillset needed to fill these positions, said Angie Praisewater, Gateways Manufacturing Engineering Technology and FAME Program Coordinator. The outcome of the partnership is the Enhanced Operator program, a short-term industry credential developed to satisfy these needs and assist in filling these high-demand job opportunities.

"The development of the Enhanced Operator Certificate is a prime example of proactive collaboration between the Advanced Manufacturing Workforce Development Coalition, the NKY manufacturing sector, and Gateway Community amp; Technical College. Our Coalition, using data from the 2012 Northern Kentucky Industrial Park (NKIP) manufacturing study, is seeking real solutions to close the skills gap and fill positions in advanced manufacturing in NKY, said Rhonda Whitaker, Co-chair, Advance Manuf. Workforce Development Coalition and District Manager, Government amp; Community Relations, Duke Energy Kentucky. These solutions won't happen overnight, but many partners are working diligently to move the needle. This program represents the out of the box thinking that will strengthen our workforce pool for continued growth, expansion and attraction in this critical sector of our regional economy.

Industry partners including, Safran MBD, Mubea, Zumbiel, Linamar Eagle, Bosch, Zotefoams, Mazak and Armour USA collaborated with Gateway staff to create a 16-week course that includes instruction in needed skills provided in a flexible format that considers the work schedules of the students. The course is a hybrid, meaning 70 percent of the course is delivered online and 30 percent in person for hands-on labs.

Students have the option of moving at their own pace as they satisfy the competencies. They even have the option to test out of modules if they have the knowledge and experience to do so. In addition, the curriculum will be primarily open-source, meaning resources are drawn from industry sources giving students real world learning experiences. Only one textbook is required for the entire program, and course work includes preparation needed for the Lean Six Sigma Yellow Belt Certification Exam.

Upon successful completion of this program, students will obtain the Enhanced Operator Certificate, which is a locally recognized industry certificate equivalent to 14 hours of college credit. All credits can be applied towards Gateways Manufacturing Engineering Technology Associates in Applied Science Degree.Another bonus to students is a guaranteed interview with employer partners for everyone who completes the program.

Its clear why Polly Crouch, machine operator at Bosch, was very excited when she heard about this program from her company. Crouch has taken a few classes at Gateway prior to this experience, but is now ready to further her education and career opportunities through this class.

Gateways partnership with industry and the Enhanced Operator program will be featured in a documentary on demand driven educational models created by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce this spring.

If you would like more information about the Enhanced Operator program or other opportunities at Gateway, please call Michelle Flick, Gateway Apprenticeship Coordinator, 859.815.7687 or email, michelle.flick@kctcs.edu.