Washburn Tech: National innovator, hometown partner

Washburn Tech: National innovator, hometown partner

October 18, 2015, Topeka, Kansas – Exciting opportunities are pouring down on Washburn Institute of Technology under the Washburn University umbrella. Washburn Tech, a nationally recognized innovator in career and technical education, currently serves nearly 2,000 students through 30 career programs. The unique affiliation with Washburn University gives these students the opportunity to start with technical courses and continue to advanced degrees while preparing for today’s careers.

“Washburn University and Washburn Tech have become a model for education institutions around the nation,” said Clark Coco, dean of Washburn Tech. “Our affiliation is the first of its kind in Kansas and is changing the way we look at traditional universities and technical colleges.”

The pair’s most recent collaboration is the KanTRAIN project, made possible by a multi-million dollar grant from the U.S. Department of Labor. Washburn Tech and Washburn University’s School of Nursing and School of Applied Studies are using the funds to create a simulated hospital on the Washburn Tech campus with state-of-the-art equipment.

“Our new simulation lab will provide students a safe and realistic environment to experience nursing scenarios,” said Jerry Farley, president of Washburn University. “This opportunity will allow them to refine their clinical decision-making skills without adverse consequences, providing them with confidence and promoting patient safety.”

Partnerships with private industry also have fueled Tech’s recent momentum. Washburn Tech is an official Snap-on college and now home to four national training centers, including the Midwest Training Center in partnership with Trane and the National Coalition of Certification Centers; Heavy Diesel Construction Technology in partnership with Case Construction and The Victor L. Phillips Company; and the automotive technician training center for Fiat Chrysler Automobiles. Most recently, Tech opened a Locomotive Diesel Technology facility in partnership with Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railway and the National Academy of Railroad Sciences.

“Our partnership with Washburn Tech is great in the sense that it gives students access to quality careers,” said Carl Ice, president and CEO of BNSF. Starting wages for locomotive diesel technicians ranges from $24 to $28 per hour plus benefits.

The opportunity to connect with the top national and local companies while acquiring the hands-on, high-demand skills that are required in today’s workplace makes Washburn Tech a popular choice. Enrollment over the past four years has nearly doubled while Tech’s graduation rate of 81 percent is the highest in the state, as is its job placement rate of 89 percent.

“We want our students to realize their value and understand what an important player they can become in their communities and local industry,” Coco said. “That was the premise behind National Technical Letter of Intent Signing Day, an event we created to honor students who are entering a technical field and to celebrate the dignity of work.”

Signing Day mirrors the NCAA’s National Signing Day for athletes who commit to play sports in college. For the past two years, on the third Thursday in February, nearly 500 incoming students have come to campus and signed a letter of intent to attend Washburn Tech. Coco says it let’s prospective students know Tech has reserved a place for them and technical education will prepare them for a strong career or be the launching pad for earning a degree at Washburn University.

Last year, Washburn Tech was joined by four other institutions in the nation in hosting a signing day. Even more are expected to participate on Feb. 18, 2016.

Washburn Tech, which serves both high school and adult students, offers programs divided into five divisions: construction, health care, human services, technology and transportation. Students train for a variety of careers from maintaining and repairing diesel engines and refinishing damaged vehicles to working as a practical nurse or a legal office professional. Attending full-time, students can complete most programs in two semesters while part-time and high school students can complete a program in four semesters.