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Northern's $1.7M grant will revamp diesel program


September 20, 2013

Montana State University’s technical college will soon be changed for the better after receiving their $1.7 million grant.

The university’s portion of the $24.98 million is part of the $474.5 million grants awarded by the Obama administration to colleges around the country to “expand demand-driven skills training and strengthen employer partnerships,” according to a U.S. Department of Labor press release

Greg Kegel, the dean of MSU-Northern’s Department of Technical Sciences, said the grant is going to bring big changes to the university’s diesel and technician training programs.

Kegel has been in Butte since Thursday, going over the implementation of the grant. He said that he would guess that the college will begin to see changes funded by the grant money starting in October.

The majority of the grant will be used to update and expand the diesel program, but the welding and machining programs will also be revamped.

“It’s definitely going to a game-changing experience,” Kegel said.

Kegel said there are hundreds of positions open in the fields of diesel program graduates and the projection for the next 20 years predicts there will be hundreds more still.

“This is huge for our program; it’s huge for our equipment,” Kegel said. “It’s like the stars have aligned.”

The grant will open up at least three positions at the university. An industrial trainer will be hired to broaden the range of the curriculum that is limited by current instructor’s specialties and focuses.

An industry navigator will be hired to work with outreaching to the job service and identifying where the needs are.

“Some of the companies we work with don’t necessarily need a four-year diesel graduate,” Kegel said.

The industry navigator would clarify what it is possible employers in the field are looking for.

An industry liaison will be hired to help identify who the players in the industry are and what they specifically need. The person in this position would be in contact with and follow up with the possible employers of MSU-N students.

In addition to the new positions, many improvements will be made to existing equipment and curriculum, including the introduction of more third-party instruction from professionals outside the college.

Kegel said there are 287 technician training program students currently enrolled at MSU-N. Sen. Max Baucus, D-Mont., in a press release said the $25 million split between technical schools across Montana is to properly train students to fill the positions of the rapidly-expanding fields they are studying.

Kegel said that though the university is in the process of finding a new facility for the diesel program, none of the funds received from the grant will be used on their current building or the quest for another.


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