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Community and College: How Gateway Technical College Engages with their Community

November 22, 2019

By Georgia Reagan, ECMC Foundation Fellow

I visited Gateway Technical College in Kenosha, Wisconsin with the Postsecondary Leadership Success Program sponsored by the ECMC Foundation back in June 2019.

Gateway Technical College itself is extremely impressive thanks to their large reach across the state: 18,000 students across 9 campus and center locations. However, what I found to be most fascinating was how strongly they are connected with their local community. It is a true partnership between the college and the community and the impacts showed strongly in our visit.

Throughout the visit, we learned that many local companies work closely with Gateway Technical College (Gateway) from large companies such as Snap-On, to local departments such as area police departments, and finally to working with smaller entities such as the local farmer’s market. It appears that the school’s solid reputation and ability to adapt to employer needs has made partnerships seamless and beneficial for both parties. For example, the college benefits from its partnership with Snap-On by exposing students to a state-of-the-art garage with top of the line supplies provided by Snap-On, as well as many job connections once students complete the program. In turn, Snap-on benefits from his partnership by having a strong bridge and steady flow of well-trained students they can hire to fill their vacancies.

In addition to partnerships with large, nationwide companies, such as Snap-On, I was impressed to see how actively Gateway Technical College is engaging in its local community by supporting local nonprofits. One example of this was the impressive dental assistant and dental hygiene programs. The tour guide told our group that the dental programs regularly work with the local Boys and Girls Club chapter to give free teeth cleanings for their youth participants. The facilities of the dental programs rival many free-standing dentists offices, providing patients with a safe and comfortable place for their services. The dental programs are providing an important community service by engaging with these young kids who might not have ever had the chance to go to the dentist’s office.

Gateway appears to be many companies and local organizations’ first choice when thinking to partner with a higher education institution. The school is supporting its community on a micro and macro level by pushing students into the workforce and also giving back to the local community. This kind of partnership is certainly unique but not impossible. Since Gateway is located in a suburban setting, it may not face the same level of competition that urban schools face. For example, my institution located in downtown Denver, Colorado must compete with a slew of higher education institutions as well as a handful of public and for-profit technical colleges.

However, Gateway has demonstrated that it is possible to become the community’s “go-to” for education and workforce partnerships. No organization or entity is too small to start. In my urban community, I plan to work with our Career Services department and our nonprofit foundation to look at the organizations we have already established partnerships with, and work to determine a few central questions: What partners are we missing? Where can we grow? This will help the school to identify where we need to work in order to begin establish strong partnerships similar to that of Gateway Technical College.

About the ECMC Foundation Fellow

Georgia Reagan is the Associate Director of Admissions at Emily Griffith Technical College. She is an ECMC Foundation Fellow of the Postsecondary Leadership Success Program (PLSP) at ACTE – Sponsored by the ECMC Foundation. The program is part of ECMC Foundation’s CTE Leadership Collaborative Initiative.

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