News Release

For Immediate Release

Contact: Kim Schmelz, External Relations & Alumni Development
Phone: 608.822.2379
Mail: 1800 Bronson Blvd., Fennimore, WI 53809
Date of Release: August 27, 2019

Cummins Awarded WTC Districts Board Association’s Technical Education Champion Honor for Partnership with Southwest Tech

Fennimore -

Partnerships of all kinds are very important to the success of Southwest Wisconsin Technical College. But, few of the college’s partnerships with area employers rise to the level of the one with Cummins Emissions Solutions, Inc.

That partnership, which spans decades and spotlights immense positive impact on Southwest Tech students and programs, was front and center at the college’s District Board meeting on Aug. 22. Cummins Emissions Solutions was awarded the Wisconsin Technical College District Boards Association’s 2019 Technical Education Champion (TECh) honor.

“The development of strong partnerships is a core college value of Southwest Tech,” said college President Jason Wood. “We are honored and humbled by the support of Cummins Emissions Solutions that has grown over time. Our students benefit directly from Cummins’ generosity and our district benefits from Cummins’ commitment to help our educational programs get better. In turn, our employees at Southwest Tech work hard to train our students to Cummins’ high standards.

“This relationship with Cummins has grown stronger over time and we honor Cummins for its diverse support, but we are even more excited about the next levels of this partnership and how we can grow the positive impact in the future. The best is still to come,” Wood added.

Michael Schumacher the Plant Controller and Community Involvement Team Sponsor at Cummins, agreed. “Our partnership with Southwest Wisconsin Technical College focuses on the area of support for education.  We understand the importance of having a technical school in our area.  We also know that Southwest Tech is regarded as one of the top technical colleges in the United States.  This partnership works for the benefit of both organizations.”

The WTCSDBA’s recognition of Cummins Emissions Solutions on as a 2019 TECh recipient highlighted the partnership well.  Cummins has demonstrated an exemplary level of partnership with Southwest Tech with financial support, its utilization of the college for employee training, hiring students and enhancing the community and the district. Cummins is also modeling the relationship created between their Mineral Point operations and Southwest Tech in other countries to recreate local educational systems.

Southwest Tech’s partnership with Cummins started in 2005 when the company began supporting the Southwest Tech Foundation Annual Fund. Since that time, Southwest Tech’s Business and Industry Services team has worked with Cummins to provide supervisory leadership training as the company prepared to increase its plant operations and start a third shift. Cummins has also worked with the Southwest Tech Career Center, having participated in Career Fairs, led mock interviews with welding students and by consistently hired Southwest Tech welding program graduates.

Cummins has also allowed its employees to attend classes when work interferes with class schedules. In relation to promotion and advocacy, Cummins has been a wonderful champion for Southwest Tech by allowing us into the plant to interview graduates for various marketing materials. Several employees also participated in a Facebook Live interview performed by Southwest Tech’s marketing team and Cummins has consistently have a presence at various events to show their support of our students and the College.

In 2015 Cummins Emissions Solutions started funding the Cummins Emission Solutions Scholarship, specifically to help fund the education of students in the programs of CNC, Electro-Mechanical Technology, Industrial Mechanic, Instrumentation and Controls Technology, Precision Machining and Welding.  In 2018, Cummins sent additional funding to increase the award amount of this scholarship because company leadership felt it was important to show greater support to Southwest Tech students and their respective education plans.

In addition to scholarships, perhaps the most impactful partnership between Southwest Tech, Cummins Emission Solutions and Cummins Corporate is the company‘s support of the Southwest Tech Mobile Welding Lab. In fall 2016 Derek Dachelet, Executive Dean of Industry, Trades and Agriculture, along with Kim Schmelz, director of External Relations and Alumni Development approached Cummins Emissions Solutions staff to ask for their support of a new Mobile Welding Lab. The intent of the lab was to bridge the gap between the lack of career and technical offerings and the need for skilled trades in high schools.

“Our goal at Southwest Tech was to increase interest in skilled trades and welding to high school and adult learners, gain student interest and college credits towards continuing his/her education at Southwest Tech and be entrepreneurial in how Southwest Tech delivers educational opportunities to students and employers across the district,” Schmelz said.

One way Southwest Tech proposed to increase awareness was to host competitions termed “Pro-Ams” between sponsors of the Mobile Welding Lab, the “pros” in industry and students, “the amateurs.” The plan was to engage high school students and pair them with mentors in a four-day course using the mobile welding lab to see who we could name the top pro welder and the top amateur welder. In the conversations with Cummins, Dachelet and Schmelz shared that there was also interest from the Department of Corrections in using the mobile welding lab to train minimum-security inmates.

Schmelz said Cummins expressed great interest in this project because of the unique alignment to their global priorities of education and social justice. In partnership with and guidance from Cummins Emissions Solutions, specifically Bobby Lee, Cummins Off-Highway Quality Programmer and Community Involvement Team Leader, a grant was written to the Cummins Foundation for support of competition funding, instructor costs, project coordination, marketing, supplies including steel, safety, meals for students, plant and campus tour transportation and a generator for the mobile lab.

In spring 2017 the Southwest Tech Foundation was awarded a grant from the Cummins Foundation for $90,699 to cover the entire request of the proposal.  In a press release written for the ribbon cutting of the Mobile Welding Lab, Lee stated, “The Mobile Welding Lab is a very innovative idea that will help bring professionals and standards to area students. The lab will certainly help to spark area students’ interest in the welding trade while giving them a hands-on experience. Cummins Mineral Point is very excited to be associated with this project.”

To date the mobile welding lab has made a great impact including working with 43 high school students at locations in Mineral Point and Prairie du Chien in Wisconsin and Elkader, Iowa, with an additional 16 that participated in a two-day course in May 2019 in Muscoda. In addition, 34 employees have received training in AWS certification and 32 inmates and gone through welding certification training in the lab. Southwest Tech AWS certificated welding instructors led all of these trainings and competitions.

In addition to the grant award for the mobile welding lab, Lee contacted the Southwest Tech Foundation in the fall 2017 about applying for an impact and sustainability award offered through the Cummins Foundation, due to the results and accomplishments with the Mobile Welding Lab. The results of this grant were an additional $5,000 from the Cummins Foundation to award as scholarships to students in the Southwest Tech Welding Program.

To date, the Southwest Tech Foundation has received $99,229.00 from Cummins and the Cummins Foundation in order to better train and support our students. “We are proud of this partnership and feel that Cummins Emissions Solutions is very deserving of the Technical Education Champion Award,” Wood said.


The Wisconsin Technical College District Boards Association presents several important awards each year. A number of years ago, it began a very special award, the Technical Education Champion, or “TECh,” Award. The TECh Award goes to the heart of what the colleges are all about in our communities, according to award criteria documents. It recognizes key community and industry leaders “who demonstrate an exemplary level of partnership with WTCDBA to promote technical education and economic development.”

The Tchnical Education Champion award is based on five criteria:

  • The nominee’s promotion of the local college;
  • Its financial support to the district and individuals associated with the college;
  • Its utilization of the college for employee training and by hiring our students;
  • Its advocacy on the college’s behalf; and,
  • The nominee’s enhancement of the community as a whole.


Cummins Emissions Solutions of Mineral Point received the prestigious Wisconsin Technical College Boards Association Technical Education Champion (TECh) award at Southwest Tech’s District Board meeting on Aug. 22. Pictured are (left to right): Layla Merrifield, executive director of the WTCBA; Jason Wood, Southwest Tech president; Michael Schumacher, plant controller and community involvement team sponsor at Cummins; Bobby Lee, senior VPI quality associate and community involvement team co-lead at Cummins; and Kim Schmelz and Holly Clendenen from the Southwest Tech Foundation.


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