New training center at Washburn Tech called model for state

Trane professionals relax in the new Midwest Training Center labWashburn Tech's sparkling new Midwest Training Center was highlighted Tuesday morning as a model of excellence in Kansas and nationally by state lawmakers, business leaders and industry executives.

The Midwest Training Center for Climate and Energy Control Technologies will serve 16 students at a time and offer both continuing education for current industry professionals and credentials for entry level heating, ventilation and air conditioning technicians.

Blake Flanders, vice president of workforce development for the Kansas Board of Regents, said the training center was an example of “boots on the ground” in the state’s effort to substantially increase its proportion of skilled workers by 2018.

“This is a local response to the statewide vision of being able to get our Kansas workforce up to what the need is going to be,” he said.

Governor Sam Brownback toured the facility Tuesday and called it “one of the great models around the country.”

Brownback praised Washburn Tech and industry partners Trane and Snap-on tools for bringing the training center from idea to fruition so quickly.

“This is really what we need to do,” he said.

Flanders said the training center is a model collaboration in response to Senate Bill 155 of 2012. The law, which went into effect in July, makes technical education courses free for high school students and provides their home school districts a $1,000 incentive if they graduate with a technical certification. An estimated 6,000 Kansas high school students are taking advantage of the new opportunity this year.

“Juniors and seniors in high school, working adults who want to update their skills or adults not currently participating in the economy” all will benefit from programs like the Midwest Training Center, Flanders said. And by increasing the number of potential employees available, he said, businesses are enticed to open, stay and grow in Kansas.

Washburn Tech will begin in April its next short course designed to give students a taste of the field before they make a commitment.

Washburn Tech Dean Clark Coco said the new training center represented a unique opportunity.

“We’re going to do more than educate,” he said. “We’re going to change lives.”