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Wilson College, Letterkenny depot become learning partners

February 26, 2008|By DON AINES

CHAMBERSBURG, Pa. - Letterkenny Army Depot and Wilson College on Monday signed an agreement for the college to provide courses to its employees in a depot building being renovated with state funds.

"The depot is growing, and with that growth comes the need for more training opportunities to refresh and renew our work force with the tools required by today's technology," Depot Commander Col. Steven Shapiro said in a joint news release.

"Partnerships are the future," Shapiro said.

The partnership with the college will enable the depot to build stronger ties with Raytheon and other defense contractors with which it does business, Shapiro said during the announcement at the college.

"Everything we're doing is getting much more technical," Shapiro said. "We need to get much smarter and better at what we do."

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The majority of the approximately 3,000 workers at the depot were educated in trade and technical schools, Deputy Depot Commander John Gray said. The program, however, is more about management skills than technical skills, he said.

Classes will be during Wilson's regular academic schedule, beginning with its May summer semester, Wilson President Lorna Duphiney Edmundson said. Initial offerings could include business management, accounting, English or other courses aimed at sharpening managers' skills, she said.

Shapiro said a new generation of technology is being introduced at the depot, which will need managers who can adapt to and implement change.

"The more they do it at their level, the earlier I get to go home," Shapiro said.

"It's just an investment in people that pays back," Gray said.

The government will pay the tuition for the depot workers, Gray said.

A survey of depot employees is being analyzed to determine what courses should be offered, Vice President for Academic Affairs Mary Hendrickson said.

The college will hold classes in Building 102, a former chemical laboratory being converted with a $400,000 grant from the Pennsylvania Department of Community and Economic Development, Gray said. Federal funds are being used to purchase computers and other technology, Gray said.

The classroom can accommodate 25 students at a time, Gray said. When not being used by the depot, he said, courses could be offered to the community, including workers in the adjacent Cumberland Valley Business Park.

"We have a choice regarding the future. We can do nothing and let the future shape us" or take steps to shape the future, said state Sen. Terry Punt, who secured funding for the project.

"You wouldn't expect a military installation to be going after anything liberal," but the liberal arts college will help depot workers develop needed skills, Gray said.

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