The Student Experience: All Hands on Deck
A hands-on, custom-built training unit brings technology front and center to help future students.
Matt Bishop, electrical apprenticeship
instructor at Fox Valley Technical College, has a special way of guiding his electrical apprenticeship graduates each year to leave their mark within the program. “Every class does a project to give back to our community,” he says. “This year’s class really out-did themselves.”
That class of 10 apprentices created a visual representation of what they learned during their apprenticeship training at FVTC, an industrial motor control applications trainer that features five different electrical circuits, ranging from basic to the most complex. “There is nothing else like it anywhere, and they did everything right down to the last detail,” notes Bishop.
Four of those involved in the project, Scott Dobberstein, Dave Hamilton, Lee Byrne and Tim Smith, called on their employer, the Curwood Bemis Company, to donate five motors and a light curtain toward the project. Known for its technological leadership in high-barrier, flexible packaging, Curwood Bemis has been a longtime supporter of FVTC’s apprenticeship programs. “All 53 people in our maintenance program are journeymen electricians, and about 95% of them went through the Fox Valley Tech program,”
says plant manager Mike Campbell.
Don Clegg, maintenance supervisor at Curwood Bemis and past graduate of the apprenticeship program, was happy to help. “The people at Fox Valley Technical College take what you say to heart,” he states. “A good example is how they integrated electronics into the apprenticeship program. It used to be you could fix things with a flashlight and a screwdriver, but now you need a laptop.”
Apprenticeship programs are a vital part of the Curwood Bemis success story. “Training, sharing information, and learning new things happens every day here,” says Campbell. “We have 50-some pieces of high-tech equipment in this 500,000-square-foot plant—some are 100 feet long and five levels high. Our people know what they’re doing, and a lot of that knowledge comes from being trained at Fox Valley Tech.”
FVTC apprentices complete five years of curriculum in four years. “They put in 720 hours in the classroom and between 8,000 and 10,000 hours at work,” states Bishop. “During their last semester, they all take a ‘train-the-trainer’ class in which they learn to pass on their knowledge. In many ways, the motor control applications trainer they built represents the whole apprenticeship concept.”
A closer look at what went into the one-of-a-kind motor control applications trainer at Fox Valley Technical College:
10 students worked together to build the trainer from the ground up, representing seven different companies: Curwood Bemis, International Paper Company, Kaytee Products, Inc., McCain Foods, Oshkosh Corporation, SCA Tissue, and Walker Forge, Inc. Werner Electric also contributed toward the project.
About $20,000 in donated materials and more than 500 hours were put into building the unit, which is comprised of about 100 items.