According to the college’s website, Gateway Technical College laid the cornerstone of career training when Racine Continuation School began classes November 3, 1911, as the first compulsory, publicly funded school in Wisconsin—and, in doing so, also became the first in America.
From a single building in Racine, Wisconsin, technical education as we know it today has grown to be one of the most powerful forces in building our economy and a trained workforce.
From its inception, Gateway has provided students with education and training to pave the way for their careers and futures. Training has been tailored to the needs of the industry of the day—addressing traditional as well as emerging, in-demand career fields. Gateway continues to serve its communities by supplying local industry with trained workers and residents with opportunities to gain solid paying careers.
In 2006, with the assistance of The Quality Group, Gateway Technical College began offering training for the Lean Six Sigma methodology to local business organizations. Seven years later the college decided it was time that they walk the walk as well as talk the talk of quality improvement. The intention at the time was to improve efficiencies and reduce wastes in their operations. The goal or the problem was how to deliver a superior experience to all stakeholders. With this in mind, in the fall of 2013, the college established the Office of Quality Systems. In September 2013, the college promoted Kamaljit K. Jackson to the position of quality manager.
By April 2014, all 604 employees, including the Board of Trustees, of the college had completed the basic Six Sigma White Belt training. In the interim the college now has on staff 625 White Belts, 35 Green Belts, and 12 Black Belts.
With the establishment of the Quality Systems Office and the hiring of Kamaljit Jackson, the college established the process that any ideas for improvement of the college processes must ow through her office. While they still need to be evaluated by the college’s internal advisory committee and presented to the executive leadership team, any employee is not only able but encouraged to submit project ideas to improve the college. To date, 40 projects have been submitted for evaluation.
Once a project is approved, a dashboard is created for each project and managed by the director of quality systems and progress reported quarterly to the leader- ship team, and annually the savings are reported to the Board of Trustees. Of these 40 projects, the list of active projects is limited to six to eight at any one time. At the same time, the approved projects are awarded both the time and the resources to carry out the project to its completion.
Another critical factor in this process is the selection of the right team. The leadership team develops the project teams based on the members’ knowledge of the process, their experiences with the issue, and the individual strengths of the members using the strengths-based criteria developed by the Gallup organization. In fact, the entire college is run on a strengths- based approach to operations.
To date, Gateway Technical College has witnessed between 1 million and 2 million dollars in savings from the projects that have been completed, and these savings are reinvested into the programs to fund them going forward.
I talked about the idea that one part of the three pillars was a corporate mantra. Gateway Technical College reports that there was no pushback from the college employees regarding the program. Many of the teams have gone on to operate independently of the total operation by incorporating the methodology into morning huddles, Kaizans, dashboards, and so on. The three campuses are now into site-based management, and the college as a whole has developed Gateway Access that continues to communicate a standardized quality message to the college stakeholders. These are all demonstrated behaviors indicating that the college has achieved the corporate mantra as everyone has become immersed in the continuous process improvement effort.