Magazine article Techniques

Private-Public Partnerships-A Winning Solution

Magazine article Techniques

Private-Public Partnerships-A Winning Solution

Article excerpt

Alex Prunty, a student in Moraine Park Technical College's Engine Research and Development (ERD), says that "dedication" is the first word that comes to mind when he thinks of rebuilding an engine. He quickly added the more technical terms like crank shaft, pistons and valves to the discussion. "Those main engine parts have to work together, along with dedication from the technician, for an engine to perform at its best," said Prunty.

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Just like an engine is taken apart and reassembled for optimal performance, a Moraine Park program that Leaches these exact skills is also undergoing a rebuild, with business and industry partners powering the program changes. Think of major Wisconsin manufacturing companies Briggs & Stratton, Mercury Marine, and Kohler[R] Engines as the crank shaft, pistons and valves that are turning Moraine Park's ERD program into a hub of top-notch education and training. The new and improved ERD program will provide skilled workers to major Wisconsin manufacturers backing the program.

What encouraged the rebuild? In early 2011, Moraine Park was tasked with making tough budget decisions due to challenging economic times for the state of Wisconsin. While the College considered every avenue, from operational to personnel to programmatic changes, it became clear reductions needed to be made in order to address the projected $3.1 million shortfall in its 2011-12 budget.

One of the programs slated for suspension was ERD, a program that, since its inception in 1968, has trained students to assist engineers in engine design and development. After much review, in May 2011, the Moraine Park District Board voted to officially suspend the decades-old ERD program.

Local Industry Powers Program

Fast forward one month later to June 2011, and ERD was once again on the college's monthly board agenda, this time to be reinstated. Why the change of heart? Following the May 2011 suspension of the program, leaders at Briggs & Stratton, Mercury Marine, and Kohler Engines came together and encouraged a program redesign to resurrect the program. Working with Moraine Park leadership, a partnership with these major employers who were willing to provide financial support for operational expenses was developed, allowing the continuation of the program.

"The ERD program is a unique program within the Wisconsin Technical College System," said Sheila Ruhland, Moraine Park president. "When these manufacturers heard of the proposed program suspension, recognizing that Moraine Park was the only two-year technical college to provide this training, it is not surprising to me they responded so quickly."

Why the quick response? At Briggs & Stratton, 54 percent of lab employees are graduates of Moraine Park. A little more than half the lab employees at Kohler Engines are Moraine Park alumni. "Briggs looks to Moraine Park as the best source of filling positions," said Craig Claerbout, a technical specialist in engine design and development at Briggs & Stratton and a 1986 graduate of the ERD program. "As a company, we are always growing and seeing a demand for more skilled workers. Graduates from the program can get family-supporting jobs and have great opportunities working in engine research and development. This is a program Briggs needs to remain strong."

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Mercury Marine echoes the need, with slightly more than 50 percent of the engineering technicians at Mercury Marine graduates of the ERD program. By supporting ERD, Mercury is afforded the opportunity to help guide program administrators as they identify and develop appropriate employee skills and knowledge. "We're able to make recommendations regarding curriculum decisions that are frequently determined by changes in technology," said Dave Kahlow, engineering manager at Mercury Marine. "The results benefit Moraine Park, Mercury Marine and especially the ERD students. …

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