Education and industry: A vital partnership

Equipment donation to benefit welding, manufacturing programs

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From left, Ron Nilson, Darrell Raver, Jim Tippett and Tim Komberec donated $12,500 to purchase this Torchmate Plasma Cutting CNC Mill for KTEC.

As the result of a donation from a group of local industry backers, the Kootenai Technical Education Campus (KTEC) is the owner of a new plasma cutting machine.

The Torchmate Plasma Cutting CNC will benefit students enrolled in the Welding and Automated Manufacturing programs.

"It continues to make us more relevant," said Tim Fortune, KTEC director. "In order for us to provide students with the highest possible skill set to be successful in the workforce or further post-secondary training, we have to mirror industry, be aware of what is trending, and attempt to replicate that in our programs."

The donation came as the result of a conversation between Fortune (then the welding instructor) and then-director Mark Cotner about skill sets for welding students, and how they were changing.

"I told him that if we don't have a CNC plasma cutter in our program," said Fortune, "we are missing out on a very relevant piece of training that students need to be competitive in the workplace. Mark put my request out to industry about why we needed the equipment, and our industry backers stepped up - like they always do - and got it done."

The Torchmate Plasma Cutting CNC is a versatile robotic metal-cutting product that packs state-of-the-art plasma cutting, engraving, and routing capabilities into a larger cutting table size that increases the range of metal products the machine can cut.

The purchase was made possible through donations from Ground Force Manufacturing, Idaho Green Foundation, Empire Airlines, Bay Shore Systems, Washington Trust Bank (Coeur d'Alene) and the Kisslinger Foundation.

"We sent an email out," said Fortune. "These companies stepped in, and it was off and running."

The industry backers involved in obtaining the donation were: Ron Nilson, president/CEO of Ground Force Manufacturing; Tim Komberec, president/CEO of Empire Airlines; Jim Tippett, general manager of Bay Shore Systems; Darrell Raver, vice president of Washington Trust Bank; and Shaun Blakeman-Norco, who worked with the Kisslinger Foundation.

"This was a group that believed in the vision from the onset," said Fortune. "They are an integral part of what we do and how we interface with a larger industrial community."

Welding instructor Brandon Wisdom added: "Our industry partners really support us and it shows in projects like this. It really helps us give students a top-of-the-line skill set."

KTEC is a partnership between business and industry leaders, local school districts and local manufacturers. This high school hybrid offers dual enrollment credits, industrial certifications and a new route to success through applied skill learning. Core classes are taught at each student's current high school, while technical skill training is delivered at KTEC.

"Our priority is to give our next generation every possible avenue for success, right here at home," said Fortune. "We have such incredible industry support that when KTEC asks for a piece of equipment and we are able to quantify it with an increased skill set from the students that walk out of our doors, it usually doesn't take long for our supporters to rally around the cause."

When asked if KTEC is in need of other equipment, Fortune said that he's looking for CNC mills/lathes that would complement its Automated Manufacturing program.

Instructor Brandon Wisdom and student Cole Sperle work with the Torchmate Plasma Cutting CNC Mill.

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