Gateway Technical College, Krones Inc. and Niagara Bottling have partnered in an effort which will help students to gain the technical skills to enter an in-demand career field, while providing those companies with access to well-trained graduates to help meet their workforce needs.
Students benefit through access to high-quality Electrical Engineering and Mechatronics training at the college and an internship where they earn a wage while applying the concepts they learn in the classroom to real-life situations. When they graduate, they will have the opportunity to apply for work at Krones or Niagara – at their Southeastern Wisconsin location or others located across the nation.
If they choose to enter their career at another employer, they will do so with the confidence of knowing they have the training and real-world skills gained through the effort.
Gateway benefits as it offers real-world training to its students, gains access to industry knowledge through the partnerships forged with the two nationally-known businesses and provides another way for students to succeed in a career.
Donations of modern equipment by the two companies ensure students in the internship project – as well as any Gateway student in this particular engineering program – are trained and proficient on the machines they will need to use in the working world.
The companies benefit by accessing well-trained graduates for those positions of their workforce requiring a high level of technical expertise.
Krones Inc. a worldwide company, produces a number of machines and services, especially machines for the food industry in the area of liquids, while Niagara Bottling, in Pleasant Prairie, is one of 16 plants nationally producing bottled water and other products.
Students receive training to work on the high-speed, highly automated machines produced by Krones and used by Niagara.
Students enrolled in the Mechatronics or Electrical Engineering programs can apply to become a member of the cooperative program in their second semester. If they are selected, they work 24 to 30 hours a week at $16 an hour at Krones or Niagara – weeks at a time at each company – to help diagnose, repair and maintain the highly technical machines.
The wages will help students to pay their education and earn living expenses – and, at the same time, training for their career.
“This is a real job,” says Hoppe. “They will be part-time employees of Krones or Niagara. They will fill out an application, submit a resumé and have to go through the interview process.
“Not only will they have an actual job, but it will also help them to practice on interviewing skills for when they graduate from the program.”
Students must remain in the Gateway program to remain in the internship. Those who leave the program early also will be out of the internship.
Hoppe points out the partnership is unique as it connects the college to a future employer through skill training, but also allows students to earn a solid wage at the same time. He also points to the sheer number as unique, too – up to 30 students will be interning at the same time. And, as some graduate, others will be interviewed to replace them.
The two companies sought to hire staff with a strong electrical engineering background
“Niagara reached out and said they would like to recruit graduates from Gateway not only for Kenosha, but across the country. They looked at many other two-year colleges, and saw nothing to the level of what we are doing here at Gateway.
“They approached us, took a look at what we were doing, and said that was the type of training they need for their technicians. Krones also indicated it was seeking the same type of technicians.”
To bolster the training, Krones even donated a $50,000 bottling machine training piece to Gateway so students can use to become proficient in the highly technical equipment used in the industry today. The piece has been set up at Gateway’s SC Johnson integrated Manufacturing and Engineering Technology Center in Sturtevant.
Two electrical engineers from Krones also built electronic training boards students can use, also housed at the SC Johnson iMET Center.
“This is such a wonderful opportunity. This is a high-end automation field. If they can do this, they will be very marketable. They will have up to 18 months of work experience, which means they may even be able to apply for those positions which are a higher pay grade than entry level.
“It has the potential to be a life-changing experience for the students.”
“Plus, they will know at the end of 18 months if this is the career for them. They will have trained in it, worked in it. Sometimes, students in college question whether the career they’ve chosen is the career of their future. This opportunities will help them as they decide their future.”