Ceremonial start


Jackie Vietti, president of Butler Community College, signs the grant forms last Wednesday from the Kansas Department of Commerce securing partial funding for the new welding school in Hillsboro. Looking on are (from left) Larry Paine, Hillsboro city admini?strator, Phil Wyssenbach, president of Hillsboro Industries, Delores Dalke, mayor of Hillsboro, Mike Beene, regional director of the Kansas Department of Commerce, and Jim Edwards, dean of career and technical education at Butler. The first eight-week class will begin Oct. 15.

With a pass of the pen last Wednesday, Butler Community College ceremonially kicked off its presence in Hillsboro with the start of a welding school in the city-owned former AMPI building.

BCC President Jackie Vietti signed grant documents from the Kansas Depart?ment of Commerce, which is helping to fund the start-up costs for the new training center that has a goal of training 125 new welders over the next three years.

?Butler is thrilled to be part of this partnership project that we anticipate will result in significant economic benefits for some of the rural counties in our service area,? Vietti said.

?We couldn?t have asked for better collaboration from the City of Hills?boro, Marion County, Hillsboro Industries and other private businesses, as well as the Department of Com?merce.

?It was a true team effort that led to a great outcome for all involved.?

Classes will commence Oct. 15 with an eight-week course in a 6,000-square-foot training area supported with state-of-the-art equipment.

During the spring 2009 semester, the college will provide one 16-week and two eight-week classes. During the summer, one eight-week class will be offered.

The school will give adult workers a chance to upgrade their current skills, but will also offer vocational training for area high schools students, who currently have to travel to Newton.

The idea for a welding school in Hillsboro was initially broached more than a year ago by the ownership team at Hills?boro Industries.

Phil Wyssenbach, company president, said that with a recent facility expansion, the company now has the efficiencies capacity to increase its sales by 300 percent. But to do so, it will need more workers.

?The goal was to develop a community training center, a facility that could be not only for Hillsboro, but for Marion and any other communities in Marion County,? Wyssenbach said.

Eventually, the trail led to Butler Community College, who took the lead to develop the program under its auspices.

The city of Hillsboro assumed a key role as well, providing a facility and upgrading it to meet requirements with an investment of around $60,000 once the necessary improvements are completed, according to City Admini??stra?tor Larry Paine.

Mayor Delores Dalke said the project is worthy of city support.

?We have two places that build trailers in Hillsboro, and one a few miles north of here that is doing the same thing,? she said, referring to Hillsboro Industries and Circle D Corp. in Hillsboro and Donahue Manu?fac?turing near Durham.

?They?re crying for people who know how to weld,? Dalke said. ?It just seemed to make sense for us to get involved.

?This is probably more true economic development than anything else we do through brochures and other promotions,? she added. ?Now we?re doing something that puts workers here for companies that are needing help.?

According to the grant proposal submitted by Butler to the Workforce Solutions Fund of the Kansas Department of Com?merce, financial support for the $592,539 program will be shared by four primary partners over a three-year period:

n $353,919 from Butler Community College for administrative support, instructional expertise and general oversight;

n $20,000 from Hillsboro Industries and other private sources;

n $118,620 from the city of Hillsboro, essentially for a facility;

n $100,000 from KDOC.

?It?s a very involved partnership, but it is the real true way to make things happen,? Dalke said.

Though only indirectly involved, Clint Seibel, executive director of the Hillsboro Development Corp., said the project is good for the economic future of the area.

?We look at this state-of-the-art welding program as a needed step in meeting the projected growth of the manufacturing industry in our community,? he said.

?This gives us the opportunity to grow a highly qualified workforce and provide ongoing training for present employees.?

Teresa Huffman, economic development director for Marion County, said the county has expressed openness to consider funding help if needed in the future. The impact of the program will be widespread.

?I can?t express enough how critical this program is for our area?not just our county, but our region. I have already been contacted by another community outside Marion County that has the same problem and they were considering a program designed to train welders..

?But when they found out that Hillsboro had already stepped to the plate and started this training program, they asked if they could send workers from their area to be trained here. I told him absolutely. We need to attract and keep our workforce.?

Vietti said it is not unusual for BCC to launch programs in partnership with other entities, but the commitment shown in this case made the decision to proceed much easier.

?The level of persistence, and the attitude of these partners to find ways to make this work rather than to conclude prematurely that it couldn?t, is really what set this partnership apart,? Vietti said.


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