Gateway shows off remodeled energy labs

July 22, 2013

From “Gateway shows off remodeled energy labs” — Gateway Technical College hosted a gathering Thursday to feature its six remodeled and refurbished energy systems training labs on the Kenosha campus.

Beverly Frazier, college dean of manufacturing, engineering and transportation, said the spaces were stocked with almost all new equipment, some of it donated by local businesses. She estimated a value on the donated items at well past $100,000.

Larry Hobbs, Gateway heating, ventilation and air conditioning instructor, pointed out an $11,000 boiler that was donated to the college, for example.

“There are pieces here we couldn’t afford to buy otherwise,” he said.

The labs offer subjects such as sustainable energy, refrigeration, renewable energy and geo-exchange.

Some of the businesses also donated time to develop curricula, trainers and technical assistance during the four-year lab re-work. This is different from the traditional approach of a school buying its own equipment and developing its own courses, Frazier said.

“There has been a change in what industries’ needs are, and education should evolve with that,” she said. “We’re now more in tune with their needs, and they’re more involved with education” to make sure graduates have the skills the companies need.

Students are learning about a field but also practicing the skills, another shift from the typical lecture/note taking/exam approach, Hobbs said.

“Students use laptop computers to wirelessly turn equipment on and off and to record data,” Hobbs said.

Matt Gates, vice president/energy management services and solutions for Trane, which has several Wisconsin locations, said predictions are that job growth in the heating, ventilation and air conditioning field might grow 34 percent, as the U.S. Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics has estimated through 2020. The labs were redone to help meet that need, school officials said.

“We will continue to have a need for, and we’ll be willing and able to hire, people with the technical skills to survive and succeed,” he told a group at the ceremony.

Morna Foy, Wisconsin Technical College System president, added that a course/program partnership between Gateway and Trane — whose 100th anniversary was acknowledged at the ceremony — has been a model for collaboration between education and business. She said working with industry is necessary so colleges know what skills are needed and how to improve teaching them.

“Employers say it’s tough finding folks with the skills they need,” said Foy. “A lot are frustrated. It’s also tough for educators to keep up, and it’s tough for students as well.”

Some businesses haven’t bought into the collaboration idea, he admitted.

“They’re not always willing to put the work into it, but it is worth it,” she said.

The six energy systems training labs on the Gateway Technical College’s Kenosha campus include facilities for teaching:

  • Electric energy, with systems used in the heating, ventilation and air conditioning field
  • Sustainable energy, focusing on alternative systems such as photovoltaic solar energy, solar thermal hot water, small wind and fuel cells
  • Industrial heating, as well as cooling
  • Refrigeration, including preservation of food industry products
  • Residential heating and cooling, including gas and oil furnaces and heat pumps
  • Geo-exchange, for home and small commercial use.

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