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SWTC partners with NICC
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Southwest Tech has once again partnered with Northeast Iowa Community College to play a large role in a $4.8 million grant from the U.S. Department of Labor.
The grant supports the Skill-Up program, a comprehensive information technology training solution for the Greater Dubuque area. The program provides training for those currently working as well as the unemployed so that workers complete the program with the necessary skills in the manufacturing, health care, and professional and business services fields.
“The purpose of this grant is focused on increasing IT skills,” Southwest Tech Director of Institutional Advancement Barb Tucker said. “We are going to focus on IT skills related to manufacturing and the networking skills needed to troubleshoot and repair advanced manufacturing equipment and systems.”
The funding comes from the H-1B Technical Skills Training Grant Competition. These grants are funded through fees paid by employers to bring foreign workers into the United States under the H-1B nonimmigrant visa program.
Of the $4.8 million, Southwest Tech will be awarded $800,000 to use toward its training.
Tucker said the plan is to train 200 current or future employees from eight companies within the Southwest Tech district. Those companies include Milprint (Lancaster), Rayovac (Fennimore), Scot Industries (Muscoda), Curwood (Boscobel), Cabela’s (Prairie du Chien), Nu-Pak (Boscobel), Hypro (Platteville) and 3M (Prairie du Chien). 
“We anticipate more companies becoming involved in the project and will be inviting regional companies to provide input into the development of the training program to ensure it meets employer needs,” Tucker said.
The grant allows Southwest Tech to develop an updated training curriculum and to hire and bring in instructors to provide the training locally. Positions trained through the project will include maintenance workers, machinery, electrical industrial, equipment mechanics, network systems and data, and communication analysts.
Other college partners involved in the grant include Loras and Clarke, out of Dubuque.
“We are the only partner to totally focus on the manufacturing aspect of this,” Tucker said.
The grant money will also provide the training for the local employees at no cost to the employers.
“There is a very high demand for workers in the manufacturing field,” Southwest Tech President Duane Ford said. “We need to do whatever we can to get people into this field and to get them as best prepared as we can.”
This is not the first collaboration between Southwest Tech and NICC. In Oct. 2011, a second project, the Bridge to Healthcare grant, went into effect.
“This grant was targeted at dislocated TAA (Trade Adjustment Act) workers whose jobs were shipped overseas,” Ford said. “This grant allows us to provide a stepping stone into one of our current or new health care programs.”
Southwest Tech, which receives $750,000 through this grant, will target another group of 200 people over the next three years to assist them in being successful in the healthcare training program.
“We are deeply appreciative for NICC’s partnership in this,” Ford said. “We look forward to many more joint opportunities with them.”