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Bridgerland Technical College has received two large grants that will help its machining technology program prepare students for the latest advances in the world of manufacturing, including sophisticated processes used in the aerospace and medical industries.

The National Science Foundation awarded BTECH $500,000 to purchase two new 5-axis robotic fabrication machines for student training, a step up from the current equipment being used at Bridgerland and many technical colleges.

A second grant of $250,000 from Gene Haas Foundation of Oxnard, California, will go toward remodeling and purchasing new computers for the machine-shop program. The donation will result in the school naming the program the “Gene Haas Center for Machining Innovation.”

“The 5-axis machines will put us a whole other tier up in our capability and provide students with some of the most advanced technical training available,” BTECH Chief Development Officer Frank Stewart said, noting that local manufacturers such as Paragon Medical, Ductworks, Central Valley Machining and Northrup Grumman use this type of technology in their processes.

Stewart said that about 70 percent of the manufacturing companies in Utah are north of Davis County, and they are all hiring and promoting technical college students in large numbers.

“It’s absolutely stunning how much is happening here in manufacturing,” Stewart said. “And what these two grants are providing for us is the opportunity to get new classroom computers, everything our students will need, but also advance our curriculum as well as our instruction so they can go in and be technicians for a lot of those companies. It’s a huge opportunity for us.”

Bridgerland classes are available at no charge for all high school students in Cache County, and 2018 legislation made state scholarships available for individuals after high school graduation. Certificates from Bridgerland in machining, health sciences, emergency medical service, automotive mechanics, welding and many other areas typically cost from $3,000 to $4,000.

Starting in July, Utah’s eight technical colleges and eight higher-education institutions will be combined under one umbrella, and up to 30 credits of tech education will be transferable toward college degrees at no charge.

Bridgerland already had a credit-transfer arrangement with Utah State University, but the new system set by the Utah Legislature establishes a protocol for transfers between all of the institutions.

“We’re on the verge changing the whole perspective of what technical education looks like, and this machining technology grant is one of our main focus points to do that,” Stewart said. “We want students to come in a see what exciting opportunities there are for machining technologists — to be creative, use your hands, to be making things for large companies that are dealing with the space industry, with the medical, just all kinds of exciting career opportunities.”

Charlie McCollum is the managing editor of The Herald Journal. He can be reached at cmccollum@hjnews.com or 435-792-7220.

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