regional report

South Central: AED at the Forefront of Education, Workforce Issues in Great Plains, Deep South

Plans are taking shape in Kansas to further develop and accredit the Heavy Diesel Construction Technology and Diesel Technology programs at Washburn Institute of Technology in Topeka. Taking the lead for accreditation is veteran instructor Christopher Scharrer. Scharrer, who joined the team in June after a successful four-year stint at Oklahoma State University Institute of Technology in Okmulgee, Okla. (an AED Foundation-accredited school) is bullish on the prospect of creating a first-class program at Washburn. “The need is here, as we currently have more than 70 students enrolled,” Scharrer stated. “It is incumbent upon us to improve our program to meet industry metrics as measured by The AED Foundation, which is the gold standard in the industry.”

AED Vice President of Foundation Operations Steve Johnson believes Washburn Tech can meet the aggressive three-year timeline to achieve accreditation. “Washburn leadership is committed to taking the necessary steps to accomplish this mission and add to the ranks of The AED Foundation’s 32 accredited colleges across the United States and Canada,” he stated. “With Chris Scharrer’s track record as a top-notch instructor, the accreditation process is in good hands.”Washburn Institute of Technology, a CASE partner school, is a nationally recognized innovator in career and technical education. Its affiliation with Washburn University gives students the opportunity to start with technical courses and continue to advanced degrees while preparing for today’s careers. Dedicated faculty and staff serve adult and high school students as well as business and industry participants with career-specific training in several career paths including construction equipment technology. Clinton Marks, a former student in that program, had this to say: “The school’s Heavy Diesel Construction Technology program gave me the knowledge to enter the heavy construction industry and acquire an internship, which led to my employment with The Victor L. Phillips Company. I am proud of Washburn Tech’s partnership with CASE Construction, as well as my employer.”

Meanwhile, in Alabama, Tractor & Equipment Co. recently hosted Congressman Bradley Byrne at its Mobile location. Byrne, a former chancellor of the Alabama Community College System, is deeply involved in career and technical education issues. He serves on the House Education and the Workforce Committee. Byrne is also a member of the House Rules Committee and the House Armed Services Committee.

In the U.S. House of Representatives, Byrne has advocated for a smaller, less invasive federal government, to be accomplished by reducing regulatory burdens and eliminating red tape. A great champion for infrastructure investment, he’s also worked tirelessly to support local road and bridge projects, including the construction of a new I-10 bridge over the Mobile River. The I-10 Mobile River Bridge and Bayway project would increase the capacity of I-10 by constructing a new six-lane bridge with 215 feet of air draft clearance (ADC) across the Mobile River and building a new eight-lane Bayway.

“Congressman Byrne has been very influential by pursuing policies to expand construction equipment markets,” stated Tractor & Equipment Co.’s Branch Manager Chris Howard. “He also has a deep understanding of the challenges that face equipment distributors, particularly the lack of skilled workers and the need to recruit the next generation of diesel technicians.”

The visit to Tractor & Equipment Co. wasn’t Byrne’s first tour of an AED member facility. He’s visited Cowin Equipment, Thompson Tractor and Beard Equipment in the past and has shown a willingness to engage with AED members and learn more about the issues important to the industry.


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