With prior Perkins reserve, half a million dollars boosts growth
LIBERAL — Seward County Community College has been selected to receive a Higher Education Advanced Manufacturing & Information Technology Equipment Grant in the amount of $310,237 from the Kansas Department of Commerce. The funds support the needs of the advanced manufacturing industry in Kansas and will focus on reskilling/upskilling individuals affected by COVID-19 to meet economic sector needs in high-demand, high-wage occupations.
Dean of Industrial Technology Chris Hickman received the news Oct. 13.
“What a great way to come back from fall break,” he said. “What this funding really means is that as the world continues to be more automated, we will be right there, ready to lead the way.”
Charity Horinek, grant-writer for SCCC, said the grant opportunity came at the ideal time.
“We’re so excited and grateful to the state for awarding us this opportunity to advance our own technology programs, and to upskill people in our region who are in industries that are changing and transforming,” she said. Paired with a $197,465 Perkins reserve fund grant awarded through the Kansas Board of Regents earlier in the year, the money will “bring us up-to-the-moment technology-wise,” Horinek said.
That will come first in the form of fiber-optics to connect the agriculture department’s greenhouses, machine tool technology labs, and various industrial technology areas. This interlocks with a new grain operator program set to launch in 2021, said Hickman, as well as a cross-departmental biofuels program.
“Twenty years ago when I was in industry, most places might have a machinist operator, and an industrial maintenance guy. As things changed, industry combined those rules,” Hickman explained, “so that you now have one person who can run the machine and work on the machine, and even help design and build the machine.”
At SCCC, students can equip themselves for that new work environment, whether the job is in grain elevator operations, biofuels plants, manufacturing, or the energy sector. Input from the SCCC computer information systems program will be key.
“To cut to the chase, when we talk about Industry 4.0, it’s automation,” said Hickman. “Robots.”
With one robot for the machine tool technology program already on order, the grant will fund the purchase of many more, along with simulators for training, and hydraulic, electrical and conveyer equipment. The college will add three new Blendflex classrooms, drawing from both grants, which further enhances course delivery options.
“The overall goal was to really transform our industrial tech programs into more modern versions to prepare students for the jobs and skills that are needed in our area,” said Horinek. “With this new money we can take it all the way.”