September 25, 2015 8:30AM
The U.S. Department of Labor estimates that more than half of the nation’s transportation workforce will retire over the next 10 years. The industry, according to the DOL, needs to “develop a pipeline of younger, skilled workers to fill these jobs.”
With one of the top automotive programs and labs in the nation, the Pittsburg State Automotive Technology Department is poised to help fill that void. That’s the message behind the university’s push for funding for a new School of Transportation, which would be housed at the Kansas Technology Center as part of the Pittsburg State College of Technology.
The university is requesting $1.5 million from the state for the School of Transportation, a request that was recently placed on the list of budget priorities that the Kansas Board of Regents sent to Gov. Sam Brownback’s office.
“I am very pleased that the regents support our request to the Kansas legislature for funding a School of Transportation, which will require additional space, equipment, and faculty,” said Lynette Olson, Pitt State provost and vice president for academic affairs. “Over the past several years, the Kansas legislature has helped us expand and create new programs by providing targeted funding and it’s making a difference for our students, instructional and research capacities, and preparation of our students for careers that contribute to the Kansas economy and beyond.”
University officials believe that the creation of the School of Transportation would place Pittsburg State among the elite automotive programs in the nation and go a long way toward increasing the number of qualified transportation professionals in the workforce.
“Funding of this proposal would lead to direct and measurable outcomes, both for the university and the transportation industry,” College of Technology Dean Bruce Dallman said. “Automotive Technology graduates would increase by nearly 35 percent over five years. This proposal offers the state of Kansas a unique opportunity to invest in postsecondary education in a way that will have an immediate and significant impact.”
Olson said the School of Transportation would place the College of Technology on an even higher standing nationally and around the world.
“The College of Technology provides a unique set of educational opportunities that are available in only a few institutions around the country,” Olson said. “Currently, students come from the region, nation and beyond to study with our well known and respected faculty in state-of-the-art facilities. Our vision for a School of Transportation expands what is already being done through the Department of Automotive Technology, broadening scope and capacity which ultimately will impact a number of industries and position Pittsburg State University to be even more widely and highly regarded.”
The School of Transportation at Pittsburg State would expand existing programs while creating new degree and certificate programs.
A major component of the proposal is the creation of a bachelor of science degree in diesel and heavy equipment (DHE). This new degree would provide a refined and enhanced focus on the current diesel and heavy equipment emphasis within the existing automotive technology curriculum.
The DHE degree would be offered with a variety of specialized areas, such as agricultural equipment, power generation, telematics and diesel mechanical design.
“While 25 to 30 percent of our automotive graduates over the past decade graduated with a DHE focus, often times, more than half of our graduates chose a career within the DHE industry,” Dallman said. “The DHE industry fuels our nation’s economy like no other, and it provides an abundance of high-paying career opportunities.”
In addition to the new degree, the School of Transportation would feature a variety of potential certificates, specializations or degrees in areas such as precision guidance and global positioning systems, future power/alternative fuels, on-highway trucking/logistics, rail/logistics, electric power generations, agricultural equipment, GPS/telematics and electronics-embedded systems.
“The future of our automotive department certainly has additional opportunities that are viable and worthy of pursuit,” Dallman said. “These would be best served by housing all of the programs into a single School of Transportation.”
Dallman said the success of the PSU School of Construction is an excellent example of why the development of a School of Transportation is critical to the university, its students and the automotive industry.
“The success of our School of Construction has been outstanding and has without question placed it among the top across the nation,” Dallman said. “Kansas contractors are very clear in the value it has and continues to provide to the state. We anticipate that full funding of our School of Transportation will have the same effect on our automotive and transportation-related programs. We are very confident that it will be an investment by the state that will pay significant dividends to economic development both in the near and far term.”