Earn a four-year engineering degree at a technical college? It could happen one day soon, now that three technical schools in Washington, Oregon and British Columbia have joined forces.
Earlier this month, Lake Washington Technical College — the only public institute of technology in Washington — signed a memorandum of understanding with Oregon Institute of Technology and British Columbia Institute of Technology.
The three schools will work together to make it easier for students to transfer between the campuses, get internships and complete advanced technical degrees that pay well and are in demand in this region.
“We’re taking a regional approach to bridging our skills gap,” said Lake Washington Tech President Amy Morrison Goings, who noted that studies show 750,000 new jobs are expected to be created in Washington in the next five years, and two-thirds of them will require some form of postsecondary credential.
Lake Washington Tech, located in Kirkland, is part of the state’s community college system, and most of its students earn two-year degrees. But the college also has eight applied bachelor’s degrees — four-year degrees that offer a targeted area of study, and cost less than their equivalent at a public four-year university. And there are two more in the pipeline, Goings said.
Among the four-year degrees offered today is a bachelor’s in digital gaming and interactive media, and one in information technology for students who want to design software. Two more were approved this month, and will be offered starting in fall 2018: funeral services education and behavioral health.
In the years to come, Lake Washington Tech could become a place to earn an engineering degree, Goings said. That’s one of the most sought-after degrees at four-year colleges, and the programs are often so full that students are turned away. Currently, Lake Washington Tech offers an associate of science degree in engineering, a two-year degree; students who earn that degree can transfer into a four-year engineering program.
By creating a formal relationship with the two other schools, Lake Washington Tech will be able to help students transfer the credits they’ve earned in college more easily. And while the Kirkland school doesn’t offer masters degrees, both British Columbia Institute of Technology and Oregon Tech do.
British Columbia Institute of Technology is the largest of the three schools, annually training nearly 50,000 students and awarding more than 6,500 credentials. Lake Washington Tech has an enrollment of about 6,000.
Oregon Tech already has a presence in Washington — a continuing education program in engineering at Boeing. “They refer to it as their Seattle campus,” Goings said.
The three-school arrangement was announced by Microsoft President Brad Smith during a conference earlier this month.
“As our region continues to establish itself as one of the world’s most important hubs for innovation, its enormous appetite for high skilled talent will only grow,” Smith said in a statement. “Partnerships between polytechnics like these can create homegrown talent to meet the rising workforce needs along the Cascadia Corridor.”