Denison City Manager Greg Seefeldt, CDC Executive Director Don Luensmann and Grif Griffin, who is working on housing for Denison, all met with Dunker.
"I had a great dialogue with them on how we can collaborate with the community," said Dunker. "We talked about how WITCC is a partner with the community, to help the community grow. Diane (Hargens, director of branch campuses) is our face in the community, and people who have a meeting she should attend, or who want more information, may contact her," said Dunker.
The college president, along with two staff members that accompanied him, detailed some fo the ways that WITCC can provide assistance to communities, businesses and industries.
"Last fall, at the Sioux City campus, WITCC hosted a regional economic developers summit so they could start a dialogue with each other," Dunker explained. "The major industries in the area all have at least one supply chain problem. If we can identify these, we can help start new businesses in the area."
Dunker said WITCC plans on hosting another economic development summit this spring.
Martin Reimer, who was appointed dean of the corporate college at WITCC last fall, said part of his job is to help with training for small- to medium-sized businesses in the area, to help develop a skilled workforce in the area to attract new businesses, and to provide skilled workers for existing businesses.
Another focus of the corporate college is to build partnerships with companies and industries to develop a sustainable model for employee development.
Need for skilled workers
"The need for skilled workers is far outpacing the supply," Reimer stated, adding that retiring Baby Boomers is one cause of the shortage.
Reimer has met with economic development specialists, including Luensmann, to discover what type of skilled workers and programs are needed by area industries.
One program that WITCC is currently helping with is the FastTrac New Venture class on entrepreneurism. The eight-week workshop is taking place at WITCC.
"We are also looking into how we can integrate the immigrant population better to help them become a successful part of the community," said Reimer.
Carolyn Zellmer, who was recently appointed executive director of college development at WITCC, is involved in the fundraising and scholarship side of training for area businesses and industries.
"We are looking for businesses and individuals to establish scholarships for students, or businesses that would like to sponsor a scholarship for an employee," Zellmer explained. "We're also looking for businesses to help sponsor individuals to help them through school, while they work part-time at the business."
She added this program is a way for a business to get to know the individual, and at the same time have an employee that is receiving training.
"Seventy percent of students require some sort of financial help, so there is a need for scholarships," said Zellmer.
Zellmer is also in charge of fundraising for capital improvements and equipment for classes.
Helping economic development specialists to share ideas is another way WITCC has provided assistance.
Dunker explained that WITCC is a tool for communities, but like any tool, it has to be taken out of the toolbox.
"We offer great opportunities, which, in my eyes, are underutilized," he stated.
WITCC President Robert Dunker talked about a number of new programs and opportunities being offered by the college.
WITCC is expanding its curriculum to meet the needs of industry with its industrial plant technology program. This will be offered as a hybrid program, meaning that part of the work can be done online, and part of the work will be done in the classroom on the campus.
Dunker continued that WITCC is developing a pilot course to be offered this fall in home technology integration.
"This is a new program we are developing that integrates all the technology in the home - sound systems, computers, lighting controls, security systems, and other home technology," the WITCC president explained. "This is an expanding field of need."
The course, Technology Integration I, will allow students to get a feel for the program.
Dunker continued that WITCC is also looking at biotechnology, and that the college is doing a major research project in regards to renewable energy.
WITCC already offers many pieces of this program.
"We're looking at the pieces we have to see what we need to develop a series of courses," Dunker explained.
WITCC is also developing a course in high-pressure boiler operation and maintenance. The college received a federal grant of $1.5 million over three years to develop the program. Dunker said the college is in the process of ordering equipment and writing the specs for the course.
The Denison WITCC campus is offering a hybrid course for emergency medical technician training. Part of the course will be offered online and part at the Denison campus. EMT courses are already offered at the Denison campus. Hargens pointed out the hybrid course will allow students to do part of their work online at home.
Opportunities go beyond economic development and into classes for students.
"Not every student and not every family is prepared to send their child to a four-year college," said Dunker.
Hargens pointed out that some students don't know exactly what they want to do or to study after high school. She added there have been instances where a student will go away to a four-year college and then return and study courses at WITCC in Denison.
Dunker continued that any credits for an associate's degree taken at WITCC will transfer to a four-year college.
Hargens pointed out that students studying at WITCC have several options - including taking on-line courses and courses offered over the Iowa Communications Network (ICN), as well as classes at the Denison campus.