SCC Awarded $650k to Expand Industrial Technology Instruction


Southeastern Community College (SCC) was awarded a $649,499 Advanced Technological Education (ATE) grant from the National Science Foundation (NSF) to refine its industrial technology program on the Keokuk campus.

The three-year grant will fund the college’s efforts to update its current Industrial Maintenance Technology program to infuse more training in automation and robotics technologies and enable program developers to migrate to a competency-based model of instruction.

SCC president Dr. Michael Ash says the grant will fund the college’s ongoing efforts to stay at the forefront of skills training for area workers and employers.

“Our region is only as strong as our workforce,” said Ash. “These enhancements mean that future graduates will be even better suited to step into the high-skill positions that area manufacturers need stay competitive. It’s a win for everyone.”

The new program will be called Industrial Controls, Automation, and Robotics Technology, or ICART. SCC instructor, Paul Volkl, explained that the new name better reflects the topics covered by the program curriculum.

“Manufacturers are constantly expanding and updating their equipment and processes and that means it’s critical their equipment is always running at peak performance,” said Volkl. “Students will earn industry-recognized credentials, so employers know they’re in sync with the technology they’ll be working on to keep everything running properly starting on day one.”

Another key feature of the new program is a move to competency-based education. As students evidence their mastery of skills and concepts, they’ll be able to advance to the next series of courses.

According to Dr. Ashlee Spannagel, Dean of CTE & Workforce Development, this approach allows students to advance through their training faster and focus on the areas where they need the most instruction.

“This is especially helpful for students who come into the program with previous experience or prior instruction,” Spannagel explained. “They are able to demonstrate their understanding and mastery of skills instead of having to waste time studying things they already know.”

Local employers continue to be instrumental in providing feedback to develop the program enhancements.

Bryan Langerud, Plant Manager for Conagra Brands in Fort Madison, is especially happy about the career exploration components.

“Conagra Brands has undergone several expansions over the past 10 years and we employ more than 600 technical associates,” said Langerud. “Programs such as this allow students to explore and prepare for the career opportunities that facilities like ours offer so they want to enter this profession and eventually staff our facilities.”

Dennis Fraise, President and CEO of Lee County Economic Development Group echoed, “We are excited to partner with SCC, our school districts, and industries to prepare students for high-tech careers that pay well and fuel economic development in the region. Coupled with the Career Advantage Center, our students will have unparalleled career exploration and learning opportunities.”

Volkl will lead SCC’s team through the new initiative along with Richard Mansheim, fellow ICART Instructor, and Dr. Ashlee Spannagel. Local industry and education partners who will collaborate on this project include Lee County Economic Development Group, Conagra Brands, Iowa Fertilizer Company, Independent Can Company, DuPont, Amsted Rail-Keokuk, Silgan Containers, Roquette, Siemens Gamesa, and Fort Madison, Central Lee, and Keokuk School Districts.

SCC received mentoring and technical support from Mentor-Connect, which provides mentoring and technical resources to help two-year college faculty write competitive grant proposals. Mentor-Connect is an ATE project led by Florence-Darlington Technical College in partnership with the American Association of Community Colleges.

The ATE grant program focuses on the education of technicians who work in high-tech fields that drive the nation’s economy. This is SCC’s first-ever ATE grant and is spread across a three-year timeframe with milestones each year. In addition to instruction updates and equipment upgrades, the plan includes career awareness and exploration initiatives for Lee County K-12 school districts.

Students can now enroll for the ICART program. For more information, visit or email