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Meeting the job needs – for both students and the region

Mid-State Technical College to re-introduce Mechanical Design Technology program

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January 9, 2024

CENTRAL WISCONSIN – With industry demand constantly changing to keep up with the evolution of technology, higher education institutions therefore find themselves adjusting their programs to meet industry demand.

Ryan Kawski, dean of the School of Applied Technology, said Mid-State Technical College is a great example of this.

Starting in fall 2024, Mid-State will restart its Mechanical Design Technology program, which Kawski said was brought “on to meet the demands and the requests of the industry.”

The program will be available at all four Mid-State campuses: Adams, Marshfield, Stevens Point and Wisconsin Rapids.

“We had this program several years back and discontinued it, or suspended the programming – which was due to a change in the industry at the time,” he said.

At the time it was discontinued – in the early 2010s – Kawski said the country was “just coming out of a major economic downturn.”

“A lot of the industry demand had gone more toward the direction of mechanical engineers, and companies were making decisions on who to cut,” he said. “Those technicians – that technician marketplace – dissipated. The college was not seeing the demand for those technicians any longer.”

Fast forward to 2023, and Kawski said it’s now quite the opposite. 

“We are now hearing the need from the industry and the demand for those technician-level positions again,” he said. 

Though the need for mechanical engineers is still there, Kawski said now companies are seeing a need for design technicians to be the “detail folks” – those who will detail out drawings, create assemblies and do the technical work. 

To match that need, he said, Mid-State decided to bring the Mechanical Design Technology track back, which is a two-year, associate of applied science program that will be between 63-64 credits of instruction time. 

Courses built for the workforce

Many of the classes students enrolled in the program, Kawski said, can expect to take are CAD (Computer-Aided Design)-type design courses. 

For example, some of the classes include:

  • 2D AutoCAD programming
  • 3D AutoCAD programming
  • 3D modeling software – such as SolidWorks and Autodesk Inventor

Those kinds of classes, Kawski said, provide a baseline for students to get used to the software and programming. 

From there, courses expand out.

“What we have recognized as important for the industry, is it’s great to be able to draw the part and create those drawings, but it’s also important you understand how to build the part, too,” he said. “Our program will have several more hands-on courses within the world of a basic machining course or fabrication course. Then we get into machine design courses and understand how simple machines work and how you would design those machines to improve efficiencies in the industry you might be serving.”

To get a well-rounded and comprehensive knowledge base, Kawski said students will then take some basic courses on hydraulics and pneumatics.

“And then certainly all those other important pieces of detailing out prints and technical drawings,” he said. 

Though Mid-State works to meet the needs of the job market in the area, Kawski said it’s also important for the technical college to make sure there will be enough available jobs for students once they graduate from the program.

“As part of our program approval process – at both the local or district board level, as well as at the Wisconsin Technical College System Board level – we have to provide the documentation through labor market statistics and/or survey data of local employers to validate the need for those (positions),” he said. 

Kawski said the survey asked:

  • Are you in need of this technician position or this associate’s degree?
  • How many people would you anticipate hiring per year?

“We always have to validate data during the program approval process,” he said. “We open and close programming based on job demands for those skilled positions.”

A benefit to the students

Kawski said it’s also important to make sure the Mechanical Design Technology program – or any program for that matter – benefits the students as well.

“Focusing on the local needs of programming and local employers is what will be the key to student success,” he said. “Within our district, it comes down to food processing, paper products and metal manufacturing industries of varying states.”

Kawski said Mid-State also offers dual credit programs to students in high school to help give them a jump start and decide the right path for them. 

“When you think of that pathway progression, they get started in high school free of charge to them through our agreements with the local high schools,” he said. “Then they come to us, take programming, and if they want to, either job out or pursue a higher level of education.”

Continuing to meet industry needs

Kawski said the college is doing two things to keep up with the region’s industry needs.

“We’re opening up our AMETA™ (Advance Manufacturing, Engineering Technology and Apprenticeship) Center project at Stevens Point,” he said. “It’s focusing on advanced manufacturing technology, specifically in the world of mechanical or robotic automation because that’s where the industry is headed.”

The second way Mid-State is positioning itself to meet the need, Kawski said, is through building articulation agreements with university partners so students who wish to start with the technical college and continue to pursue higher-level education or four-year degree, can do so.

“Specific to our Mechanical Design Technology program – we will hit the ground running with an articulation agreement with the University of Wisconsin-Stout in their Mechanical Design Engineering Technology program,” he said. “It will be a true two plus two program, where a student can start their first two years with us, earning an associate’s degree, and then complete an additional two years at the university and earn their bachelor’s degree in Mechanical Design Engineering Technology.”

For more information on the revamped Mechanical Design Engineering Technology program, visit

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