Representatives from the SouthWestern Assn. were on the OSU Institute of Technology campus Friday for a ribbon cutting and dedication ceremony of the newly renovated space that houses the university’s Industrial and Farm Equipment Technology program.
The $153,000 renovation has more than doubled the square footage of instructional space for the students pursuing the Associate in Applied Science degree in Diesel and Heavy Equipment. The association funded the renovation through a capital campaign that enlisted the support of members and industry partners, including equipment manufacturers, who generously contributed to the effort.
SouthWestern Assn. membership is open to farm equipment, industrial equipment and outdoor equipment dealers in the five-state area of Kansas, Missouri, New Mexico, Oklahoma and Texas.
OSUIT’s students in the program are sponsored by dealers and are educated using the latest models of large farm and industrial equipment, donated or on loan from manufacturers and dealer members, in order to train new technicians to repair and maintain the most state-of-the-art machinery in the industry.
OSUIT President Bill R. Path said the university opened more than 60 years ago with the mission of educating a qualified workforce to meet the needs of the country's growing infrastructure, and that objective hasn’t changed.
"We are so grateful for the opportunity to improve and expand the SouthWestern Association program, allowing more students to earn an associate degree and advance their careers as farm and industrial equipment technicians," said Path. "Our industry partnerships, like the one with SouthWestern Association, have never been stronger, and this new space is a great example of our university’s commitment to meeting the needs of those industries."
The renovated area includes a 7,550-square-foot lab space, more computer space in the classroom and with faculty offices now in the same area, greater collaboration between students and instructors.
The new space also allows for more flexibility in training and improved access to equipment.
"The farm and industrial equipment industry is no different from other enterprises where technology is always changing and advancing. This is high-tech equipment for a very high stakes business," said Jeffrey Flora, SWA chief executive officer. "Today's machinery utilizes GPS, computer programming, and wireless applications that require equally skilled technicians to keep these machines going."
The SouthWestern Assn. program started at the university more than 10 years ago when members of the association saw a need for more skilled technicians in their dealerships and recognized the opportunity to meet that demand through OSUIT.
Since then, the program has grown to the point where a larger space was needed to accommodate more students and more pieces of advanced equipment for the students to utilize for training.
Oklahoma A&M Board of Regents Chairman Tucker Link said OSU Institute of Technology is unlike any other college or university in the state.
"Faculty and administrators work directly with business and industry so students gain the education and skills they need to go right from the classroom to their careers," Link said, and the contribution from SWA proves OSUIT is doing things right. "At first glance, many would just see another college campus in Oklahoma, but what they don’t see, the things happening inside these walls, is truly remarkable. No other institution of higher learning in the state does what OSUIT does year after year — seeing more than 90 percent of its students step off the graduation stage and directly into their chosen career."