Starting in August 2019, Northwest Tech will open a new branch location in Quinter, Kansas where high school juniors and seniors from around the area will have the opportunity to earn a technical certificate or degree in Welding Technology. The new campus will be located south of the I-70 exit on Castle Rock Road and will house enough space for approximately 30 students to pursue technical courses.
The new campus is a partnership between Northwest Tech, Gove County Economic Development, Gove County, five area high schools, and the Dane G. Hansen Foundation. The facility will allow students from Quinter, Hoxie, Wheatland, Wakeeney, and Oakley high schools to take half-day welding courses through the college, while still earning their high school diploma at their home high school. “The goal of the program is to allow high school students to earn industry recognized welding certificate and graduate from high school and Northwest Tech at the same time,” said Northwest Tech President Ben Schears. “The opportunity is truly unique because it blends the efforts of public education, business and industry, county government, and a private foundation.”
The idea for a campus was born out of a conversation with Quinter High School principal Toby Countryman, who recognized that there were hands-on learners who needed an opportunity to further their education. After reaching out to President Schears and Gove County Economic Development Director Ericka Nicholson, the idea began to take shape. "Like all area schools, we were simply searching for a way to meet the learning needs of all of our students,” said Countryman.
A significant amount of work on the project was done by Gove County Economic Development, and Nicholson was instrumental in securing funding for the purchase of the building as well as bringing interested parties to the table. Recognizing the potential that this innovative project has, and its regional impact, the Gove County Commissioners and the Economic Development Board allowed this project to have top priority. “We are profoundly grateful for the forward-thinking to conceive this project, the perfect partnership with Northwest Tech, the support of Gove County Leadership, and ultimately the vision of the Dane G. Hansen Foundation to launch this groundbreaking regional concept,” said Nicholson. “It is certain that as this program develops, we will see this facility grow exponentially both in its student numbers and in the availability and type of educational offerings.”
The tuition and fees for the technical courses in the program are covered through Excel in CTE, a program that was created in 2012 under then Governor Brownback, to support regional business and industry through educational opportunities. The remaining costs will be for optional general education courses, uniforms, books, and a tool kit. While much of the cost is covered, Northwest Tech administration will be seeking contributions to provide permanent student tool kits in the facility to help defray remaining costs. “Our goal will be to outfit the facility with enough tool kits so our new students can focus on learning a high demand skilled trade, rather than whether they can afford tools,” said Schears.
Northwest Tech has a 17-county service area and recognized the need to support schools as well as local business and industry in the eastern half of the area. Quinter was located centrally to the five school districts the program will serve. “All parties involved recognize that if we want to see our communities grow and thrive, we have to invest in the education of our youth as well as the businesses we hope will hire them upon graduation,” said Schears. “We can’t put our heads in the sand and hope our youth will stay in the area; we have to give them a reason and an opportunity to stay.”
Schears indicated Northwest Tech administration has visited with area district administrators at the five schools and were pleased with the reception for the idea. He recognized that it would be critical to maintain strong relationships with the schools for the program to be a success.
Informational sessions will be hosted in area communities over the spring semester and parents, students, and area business and industry will be encouraged to attend. Schedules will be sent to area newspapers for publication as they develop.