Taking Business to School: WSU Tech and Snap-on

In collaboration with ACTE, Xello supports career and technical education (CTE) professionals in the development of Taking Business to School. This new series of publication briefs explores topics within ACTE’s Quality CTE Program of Study Framework: Business and Community Partnerships. Techniques encourages readers to consider how these resources can influence business-education partnership success in CTE.

Taking Business to School: WSU Tech and Snap-on

WSU Tech-Snapon

Wichita, Kansas, is the “Air Capital of the World!” In fact, the state of Kansas represents the third largest concentration of aviation workers in the United States. The National Center for Aviation Training (NCAT) at the Wichita State University Campus of Applied Sciences and Technology (WSU Tech) serves a vital need in the regional economy: “training the aviation workforce of the future.”

Meghan Wills, workforce policy consultant and author of the Taking Business to School series, wrote about WSU Tech’s longstanding partnership with Snap-on and how it evolved to build and implement the NCAT.

“WSU Tech approached Snap-on to request assistance in designing its NCAT lab facilities, with the aim of creating efficiently designed workspaces that feature industry-standard equipment and tools. Leaders knew it was critical to [build relationships] industry partners to develop training facilities that replicated typical industry settings, to ensure that students were well-prepared for work in their future careers.”

WSU Tech prepares students for success in the aviation industry, covering topics such as:

  • Aerospace manufacturing technology
  • Aviation maintenance technology
  • Composite technology
  • Electronics technology
  • Nondestructive testing

Further, the program emphasizes employability skill development and demonstrates real-world relevance. Students enrolled in West-MEC’s Energy & Industrial Technology program benefit from hands-on instruction designed to simulate the industry environment. They also may receive professional certifications from OSHA and NCCER, as well as transferable college credit.

Snap-on had worked with WSU Tech for years, supplying high-end tools and equipment for students. But this new project would require a more integrated approach to collaboration between education and industry. In partnership, they built the new program curriculum together. WSU Tech prioritized aligning content with workforce needs while Snap-on consulted with education and industry leaders to launch the National Coalition of Certification Centers (NC3) — to offer students stackable, real-world credentials.

Further, through NC3, the partners renewed a commitment to helping teachers help their students. Central to Snap-on’s philosophy of workforce development, Wills wrote, is “that it can improve the skillset of students by strengthening the skillset of teachers.” And, for WSU Tech President Sheree Utash, faculty professional development is what she values most in their partnership with Snap-on.

“For years, we struggled to find appropriate professional development for technical faculty,” she said. But train-the-trainer workshops and other resources from NC3 help instructors develop a deeper understanding of new technologies and industry trends — knowledge that can then be shared with students. “The more proficient [students] can be with various types of equipment and tools, the more prepared they will be going into the workforce,” continued Utash.

Develop education and industry partnerships for CTE program success.

Since NCAT opened, WSU Tech’s aviation programs are booming. Enrollment more than doubled in a period from 2010–19, and student completion rates grew by 230%! And WSU Tech’s success hasn’t stopped with aviation; college administrators went on to build industry partners across sectors for the benefit of students, faculty and the economy.

“A huge part of why we have accomplished what we have in the last 11 years is because of our partnership with Snap-on,” said President Utash.

Read Taking Business to School: WSU Tech and Snap-on to learn more.