M-TEC Offers Training

February 1, 2008
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GRAND RAPIDS — Michigan Technical Education centers meet many of the industry’s training needs through customized training. The centers market employer-driven training to provide local companies with a highly skilled work force and work with businesses to upgrade employee skills.

There are 18 M-TEC centers in Michigan, all of which were built in partnership with community colleges. Grand Rapids Community College is the only college in West Michigan with two M-TEC facilities. The Patrick Thompson M-TEC, located in Holland, opened in fall 2000 in partnership with the Ottawa Area Intermediate School District. The facility serves the needs of students in manufacturing and industry-related occupational programs. The Leslie E. Tassell M-TEC in Grand Rapids opened in 2002 and offers training in manufacturing, auto service, and building and construction trades. Some programs are for degree-seeking students and others are for students who want to earn a credential or certification to fulfill a workplace requirement.

The state provided partial funding to build the M-TEC centers, and the colleges raised the remaining funds and took on the responsibility for financing the centers’ operations, said George Waite, director of the Leslie E. Tassell M-TEC.

“The M-TECs were part of the state’s work force development intiative,” Waite explained. “It was meant to give colleges some new tools to respond to the work force development needs we each had in our community. Each M-TEC offers different programs depending on what they need locally.”

The M-TEC in Grand Rapids has been open for six years and is now at capacity, Waite noted. Even though there have been hundreds of job losses in Michigan over the last several years, there have been new job opportunities, and students attending M-TEC and other GRCC programs have been the ones with the right skill sets to go right into the workplace and into some of the high-skill, high-wage, high-demand jobs, Waite said.

“We really have more job opportunies than we do students in some areas like machining, CNC and welding,” Waite noted. “We have employers call us every week looking for folks, but we just don’t have enough graduates to fill those job opportunities. It’s kind of exciting from that perspective.”

The Michigan Works! office located in the Tassell M-TEC center posts area job openings for students. Waite said employers have always worked with M-TEC to make sure its programs are on track with the skill sets they need.

Stiles Machinery works quite actively with M-TEC on courses it offers through Stiles Education, its in-house training center. Stiles Machinery is the nation’s largest panel processing machinery distributer. It serves clients such as Herman Miller, Steelcase and Haworth locally, and just about any major woodworking company in North America.

Stiles has a partnership with M-TEC and GRCC to provide instructors for the company’s soft skills training in such areas as supervision, said Duane Griffiths, director of educational service for Stiles. M-TEC faculty come to Stiles facilities, work with students and share their expertise. 

“They are true professionals and practioners in their field. We appreciate what the faculty brings to us,” Griffiths said. “Their faculty are not only up on their fields intellectually and academically, but they’ve also walked the walk so they can talk the talk.”

The courses that Stiles Machinery has offered in association with M-TEC have rated the highest on student evaluations, Griffiths said, and the company believes M-TEC is a valuable local resource.

James Peterson, executive director of finance for GRCC, said the cost of operating the Tassell M-TEC is approximately $425,000, not including the cost of instructional salaries and fringes for faculty who teach at the facilities. Those costs are charged to the individual academic departments in which the faculty members teach, he noted.

What would happen to the two M-TEC centers if the college were faced with a budget crunch? The programs at Tassell M-TEC would be considered equally with all other academic programs for possible reduction, Peterson said.

“We would look at that in light of all of our programs institution-wide,” Peterson said. “We’d have to look at a number of factors, such as enrollment, demand and cost. It’s impossible for me to say right now whether we would or would not make cuts in the M-TEC program. We’d certainly look at it as part of the overall budget.”

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