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Riverland becomes partner in state-wide manufacturing center of excellence
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: February 28, 2008
Contact: James Douglass, Director of Communications, Riverland Community College: (507) 433-0611,

Riverland Community College was recently accepted as a partner in the 360º Manufacturing and Applied Engineering Center of Excellence, one of two manufacturing Centers of Excellence in the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities system. 360º is a collaborative enterprise of nine institutions located throughout the state. Bemidji State University is the lead institution with eight two-year technical and community college partners.

The network includes more than 50 accessible manufacturing and applied engineering programs from certificates to master’s degree. 360° serves manufacturing and engineering industry needs by cultivating a talented workforce through flexible education and career opportunities. The programs in 360º primarily deal with precision manufacturing such as machining, welding, and automation and robotics in addition to engineering technology and applied engineering.

According to Sophronis Mantoles, a Riverland training and development representative and coordinator for Riverland’s involvement in 360º, the center has accepted all Riverland programs that align with the 360º mission.

“We have received 360º endorsement for certificates, diplomas and degrees in the Riverland Industrial Maintenance and Mechanics Technology, Production Technician I, Manufacturing Technical Specialist and Supervisory Management programs,” said Mantoles. “This adds value to these Riverland programs.”

“We are very excited about the potential support, connections and resources this collaboration will bring,” said Steve Bowron, Riverland’s dean of career and technical education. “This partnership will help Riverland enhance programming for manufacturing and the delivery of course work to industry partners in southeastern Minnesota.”

The charge of 360° is to find avenues to expand manufacturing in Minnesota by interacting with industry, connecting and working with high schools, staying on the leading edge of careers in manufacturing, brokering services for business and industry needs and affecting career pathways.

“This center of excellence addresses all avenues of manufacturing, not just engineering,” said Bowron. “We will be involved in curriculum development and support, creating niche services to fill gaps, and serving as a resource base and networking service. Plus, Riverland’s Industrial Maintenance and Mechanics Technology program serves a specific manufacturing niche.”

A starting point for high school students interested in manufacturing careers is Project Lead The Way (PLTW), being offered in participating high schools. Students begin taking courses that will support them in a manufacturing career. Albert Lea and Owatonna High Schools are participating in PLTW and the number of high schools joining the initiative has grown exponentially in the recent past.

“There are tools on the 360° Web site to assist the students,” said Mantoles. “Students can learn about the type of work in various manufacturing career pathways, plus see the education needed, the salary and job outlook and the schools that provide the necessary programs.” The Web address is

Another important function 360° is providing is the establishment of Memorandums of Agreement (MOU) with Minnesota high schools and colleges. This allows for easy transfer of credits in the manufacturing field from school to school.

Institutional partners in 360° include Bemidji State University (lead institution), Central Lakes College, Minneapolis Community and Technical College, Northland Community and Technical College, Northwest Technical College, Pine Technical College, St. Cloud Technical College and Saint Paul College.

In 2005, Minnesota State Colleges and Universities established centers of excellence in health care, manufacturing and engineering, and information security at four state universities and 18 community and technical colleges. These centers offer state-of-the-art programs, practical research and connections with K-12 schools and business and industry to help local economies thrive and position Minnesota for a strong future.

Riverland Community College, a member of the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities system, is a regional comprehensive community college inspiring learning for living through a personalized educational environment. Annually, approximately 4,000 students are served through a wide range of credit-based educational opportunities. An additional 4,800 students are annually served in non-credit courses. Facilities are located in Albert Lea, Austin, and Owatonna, Minn. Riverland may also be found on the Internet at

The Minnesota State Colleges and Universities system comprises 32 state universities and community and technical colleges serving the higher education needs of Minnesota. The system serves about 240,000 students per year in credit-based courses and an additional 130,000 students in non-credit courses.