RACINE — A new program is in development to prepare local high school students for careers in advanced manufacturing.
Gateway Technical College creates education pathways, which are course sequences students can take to work toward post-secondary academic credentials such as certificates. Some pathways are embedded in local school districts, allowing students to earn college credit and train for careers while they earn a high school diploma. The new pathway would lead toward a certificate in an area commonly referred to as “Industry 4.0.”
The term describes the evolution of the manufacturing industry and the increasingly larger role computer technologies play in the field, said Bryan Albrecht, the president and chief executive officer of Gateway. He described the new manufacturing environment as allowing machines to produce products and collect information about them. People analyze the data to make predictions about how well systems are running and the types of maintenance that may be needed.
Albrecht pointed to recent regional developments, such as Foxconn Technology Group’s plans to build a liquid crystal display panel manufacturing campus in Racine County, as motivators for the new pathway.
“We felt it was important that we kept our programs as current as possible,” he said. “It would allow our students to be better prepared for the emerging job markets.”
Students in the pathway would take seven courses to earn the certificate. Albrecht said the first four courses are developed and could start appearing in local high schools next fall. Courses also will be available for adult students, he said.
The program aligns with the technical college’s curriculum for associate degrees in engineering, manufacturing and technical college, Albrecht said.
Racine schools could offer new pathway
Racine Unified School District is in the initial stages of working with Gateway to implement the curriculum at its high schools, said Dan Thielen, the chief of secondary school transformation for the district. He said the district is excited about the opportunity to offer an Industry 4.0 pathway for its students.
The school district has offered some pathways but took a more targeted and comprehensive approach toward the concept in the past couple of years. The pathway selection is driven by workforce trends, Thielen said.
“It’s becoming more and more robust in terms of the number of courses that we offer at high school that students can earn college credit for,” he said.
Thielen said the district aims to give a greater meaning to students’ high school education by offering these opportunities.
“Students are starting to find themselves as they come into high school,” he said. “We want to be able to align their interests with a pathway that could provide them those opportunities to learn more about those interests.”