electronics, mechanics, robotics,
motors, and controls. Other areas of
study include safety, leadership, and
“A lot of the people who go through
the training are multiskilled maintenance people,” LeBlanc says. “We offer
practical and theoretical training; this
is truly a working academy.”
Another transportation sector experiencing increased employer demand is
the railway industry. Dakota County
Technical College (DCTC) in Rosemount,
Minn., for example, offers a railroad
conductor training program with help
from Canadian Pacific Railway and
Union Pacific Railroad.
When the program launched five
years ago, railroad companies operating
in Minnesota cited a 40 percent projected retirement rate among railroad
workers and an estimated 50 percent
increase in commerce over the next
10 years, says Larry Raddatz, director
of customized training at the college.
The railroads “did not want to be committing resources to training when
they needed people to operate trains,”
Canadian Pacific and Union Pacific
donated equipment, supplies, instructional materials, and staff time to
develop curriculum and to plan and
construct an on-campus rail yard. Four
retired conductors were hired to teach
and assist in the classroom.
The 16-credit certificate program consists of seven weeks of classroom and
hands-on activities and an eight-week
internship. As many as 70 students go
through the program each year.
The on-campus rail yard is a quarter
of a mile long and includes three tracks,
two switches, six rail cars, and a track
mobile (a diesel tractor to move the
Raddatz credits DCTC’s ability to
work with government and industry
partners with helping to sustain the
program. “We have been able to keep
the cost lower with the support of the
railroads and a state grant we received
when we started the program,” she says.
“There’s been consistently healthy
demand for people with railroad
conductor skills,” Raddatz says. “With
the exception of 2009—the height of
the recession—there have always been
many more jobs than DCTC has had
The college offers other transporta-
tion programs, including truck driving,
diesel mechanics, and auto mechanics.
And railroad companies and other trans-
portation industry recruiters are regu-
larly on campus to recruit graduates.
“We receive requests from all over
the country for our graduates,” Raddatz
says. “A couple of years ago, the Alaska
Railroad called because they needed 30
conductors as soon as possible. I even
received an e-mail from South Africa
Kentucky Community College and
Technical System students use a hydraulic
trainer at a Toyota assembly plant.
A student at Dakota County Technical
College in Rosemount, Minn., works on a
wondering if we could train conductors
for them. Earlier this week, I received
an e-mail from a U.S. soldier deployed in
Iraq who wanted to know how to apply
when he gets home.”
DCTC is not alone. Gateway Com-
munity College (GCC) in North Haven,
Conn., also offers a railroad-training
program. In October 2010, the college
launched the first railroad engineering
technology program in the northeast-
ern United States. Gateway will offer a
new associate degree in railroad engi-
neering technology (RET) beginning in
the spring of 2011.
Work on the RET program began in
2009 after officials from Metro-North
Commuter Railroad approached GCC to
enhance the education of Metro-North
employees eligible for tuition assistance
through its employee union. Metro-North needed a training program to
backfill anticipated retirement vacancies, says Paul Silberquit, division
director of Gateway’s Engineering and
Applied Technologies Division.
Students who enroll in the RET
degree program can choose from two
specialties: electromechanical or signaling and communications.
Silberquit estimates that 30 to 40
full- and part-time students will enroll
in the program each year. That includes
students now in the college, new students from high schools, people looking
to make a career change, and current
railroad employees interested in pursuing an associate degree.
Even after earning a degree, new
hires will likely have to go through
in-house training at railroad companies,
Silberquit says. “One of the goals of the
program is to shorten that in-house
training, so new employees are coming
in better prepared and can get assigned
to work areas much sooner,” he says.
In the Air
Aviation industry training programs
also are taking off at community colleges. Mid-South Community College
in West Memphis, Ark., offers a new
program to train aircraft and power
plant (A&P) technicians.
(Continued on page 34)
32 COMMUNITY COLLEGE JOURNAL December 2010/January 2011