For a glimpse inside one of manufacturing’s strongest regional allies, check out the next issue of Enterprise Minnesota® magazine. A Q&A with two of Hennepin Technical College’s senior administrators shows how the college constantly adapts its programs to meet the needs of its students and their employers.
Joy Bolin, the interim president of Hennepin Tech, and Alison Leintz, the college’s academic dean, sat down with editorial director Tom Mason to discuss issues ranging from the challenges of the pandemic, to the skilled worker shortage, to partnerships with industry.
Hennepin Tech was founded in 1972, and during the past five decades, it has been innovative in adapting its academic programs and services as the needs of students and Minnesota’s workforce have changed. Today the college is nationally recognized for providing an affordable, high-quality education for students entering the skilled trades and high-demand careers.
Like most organizations, Hennepin Tech struggled initially during the COVID lockdown. It was a challenge, after all, to teach machining to students who weren’t actually sitting in front of machines because of remote learning.
But instructors found creative solutions. “We had faculty members with GoPro cameras on their heads demonstrating concepts on the machine for our online learning platform,” says Leintz, adding they also used simulation software to help students visualize concepts remotely.
On another front, because of the worker shortage, industry has been able to lure students away, either before or during their time at Hennepin Tech. In response, administrators constantly strive to make it easier for students to balance school and work. “We have day programs, night programs, and late afternoon programs so students can work and go to college at the same time,” says Bolin.
“It’s hard for students to envision the benefit of investing time and money into their education when they have this high-paying job,” Leintz says. “We’ve worked with industry partners to ensure they’re conveying that message. Many of our industry partners will reimburse tuition and have flex hours so that the students can both work and complete their education.”
Hennepin Tech maintains an excellent relationship with industry, with input and support from manufacturers affecting key aspects of the college. “We have an advisory board for every college program, which allows us to hear from industry partners,” says Leintz.
Leintz adds that most industry donations come from the manufacturing sector. “Our automation robotics engineering program has received different types of robotic equipment so that a real-world industry environment can be replicated in our lab facilities,” she says, adding, “Several partners have donated robotic welders to help us expand our curriculum into those areas.”
To accommodate specific manufacturers’ needs, the college has set up customized training for companies that need employees to be trained on a piece of equipment available on campus. It also offers non-credit training for companies, going to a manufacturer’s location to meet particular needs.
Look for the full Q&A on Hennepin Tech due to be published on February 23.
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