Western Nevada College nets $142,000 STEM grant to enhance tech programs

Western Nevada College has received a $142,000 STEM Workforce Challenge Grant to enhance its welding certificate and degree programs. The programs help meet the needs of the region’s advanced manufacturers.

The grant will allow purchase of a robotic welder and associated curriculum. WNC will use college resources to upgrade its facilities to accommodate the new program. The new curriculum and tools will teach students about metallurgy, the mathematics of welding, and how to program a robotic welder. Those who complete the program will be able to program KUKA and FANUC robots.

“WNC is thrilled with the announcement of additional funding to broaden our STEM instruction,” said Dr. Robert Wynegar, vice president of Academic and Student Affairs at WNC. A previous STEM grant to support Mechatronics at the Carson City campus, and a collaborative effort with the Churchill County Library to bring an Information Technology program to Fallon, are evidence of WNC’s continuing commitment to provide high quality technical education throughout WNC’s service area, he said. “The equipment and curriculum provided by this grant will support additional modernization in both our welding and Applied Industrial Technology programs.”

WNC will offer two learning tracks — a traditional track delivered in a 16-week semester and an accelerated track that meets 24 hours per week. Together, the two tracks will accommodate up to 40 students. The first cohort will begin in fall 2016.

“Teaching welding now matters more than ever,” said Dr. Georgia White, director of WNC’s Career and Technical Education Division. “Automation and advanced technologies like robotics and plasma cutting require skilled workers.”

WNC’s welding program will offer curriculum from Lincoln Electric, a national leader in welding technology. Addition of a robotic welder will enhance our mechatronics program and provide subject matter integration for our students.

Demand is far outpacing the supply, White said. “Jobs are there. A new generation of students is waiting to be trained in the skilled trades.”

From manufacturing to construction, the demand for welders is strong. Salaries are also good, given that many jobs don’t require extensive education. Average wages are $17-25 an hour. Specialized certifications and supervisory roles offer higher earnings.

“I thank the Governor and his Office of Science, Innovation, and Technology for funding the grant proposal,” White said.


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