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WATC Receives $800K Grant To Strengthen Technical, STEM Education


The National Science Foundation (NSF) is providing funding for the Wichita Area Technical College to create a new collaborative network for manufacturing education.

WATC received an $800,000 grant to set up this network called Manufacturing Alliance Keeping Education Relevant to Technical Employee Competence or “MakerTEC.” The goal is to create a qualified workforce in science, technology, engineering and math industries.

The idea is to connect educators to employers, workforce boards and placement agencies so they can strengthen technical education to meet manufacturing industry needs.

Project manager Dana Schirer says they’ll start with two partners—Eastern Florida State College and SpaceTEC—with plans to add more in the future.

"Our primary focus is going to be on the initial states of Kansas and Florida," Schirer says. "Then we’ll move into possibly Virginia, and then maybe toward the end of the grant, more of the southeastern parts of the United States."

The network will try to match needs with capabilities, reduce costs and improve the effectiveness of qualifying technicians for science, technology, engineering and math industries.

Schirer says the four-year project will help address a widening skills gap that exists in manufacturing today.

"We know that manufacturing is a very important industry to the U.S. economy, and we also know that there’s a widening gap for technical skills and for candidates to fill those positions," she says. "So we feel that making more of a broader effort will be a bigger impact not just on local Wichita, Kansas jobs but also on jobs throughout the U.S."

The grant runs through 2020, and Schirer plans to apply for additional NSF funding to expand the project.

She hopes to create an online component to link qualified candidates to open positions with manufacturers and supply chain industries throughout the U.S.


Follow Deborah Shaar on Twitter @deborahshaar

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