Corrosion program instructors head to DC

Conference showcases NSF success stories

LIBERAL, Ks. — Seward County Community College will send two of its energy department instructors to Washington in October as part of the college’s NSF grant project to expand corrosion technology education. Chris Hickman, energy department head, and corrosion instructor Autry Coleman will attend “Innovation & Impact: ATE for the Future” Oct. 23-25, where they will showcase SCCC’s grant-funded project.

“We are honored and excited to be part of this opportunity,” said SCCC’s dean of industrial tech and adult education Travis Combs. “Thanks to a three-year grant from the NSF, awarded in the summer of 2019, we plan to expand the reach of our studies through online course delivery.”

As many career-tech education programs across the nation know, Combs noted, aging infrastructure and a workforce with many retirements on the horizon will increase the demand for highly skilled jobs dramatically in the coming years.

At the same time, access to a high-quality education for corrosion techs in particular is limited.

“As a community college in Southwest Kansas, we believe the opportunity to be part of this industry should be as accessible as we can possibly make it,” Combs said. “That’s why we are excited about support through the NSF, and the expansion it makes possible.”

The conference focuses on how to create successful, impactful career pathways to develop the U.S. workforce.

“By engaging in strong industry, community, and academic partnerships, these institutions are actively leading,” stated the conference prospectus.

Coleman and Hickman will join other awardees to share strategies and successes in sessions and showcases.

“We’re really excited to see what’s out there, and what other colleges are doing,” Coleman said. “One of the colleges that also applied and received an NSF grant when we did will be there. Their project is to rebuild infrastructure in Puerto Rico after the hurricane damage, and it’s going to be cool to meet up with our sister program again and find out how things are going.”

That global perspective is what SCCC President Dr. Ken Trzaska hopes to cultivate in Southwest Kansas.

“I really believe programs like corrosion are key to a strong future for community colleges like SCCC,” he said. “The online delivery, the partnership with regional business and industry, the potential to help students find high-demand jobs — it’s all there, and now it is simply a matter of putting the pieces together in our own distinctive way.”

“We’re looking forward to extending a program that benefits people from all walks of life, in many locations,” said Combs. “I’m excited to see what Chris and Autry bring back from D.C.”

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