Jason Olson, Deseret Morning News
Nathan Copeland installs waterlines at a new condominium complex in Provo. He works for Told Plumbing through the apprenticeship program at UVSC.

OREM — For folks whose idea of hard work involves diesel mechanics, electrical construction or high-voltage power lines, changes in the way they are trained for these jobs are under way.

For the past year Mountainlands Applied Technology Center has been offering the 10 or so apprenticeship programs that have been historically offered at Utah Valley State College, which is ramping up to become a university.

While the MATC program has not supplanted apprenticeship training at UVSC, it is anticipated that it could; and the soon-to-be university hopes to offer a new associate's degree for people who want to transfer MATC credit and job experience to UVSC for a diploma.

It may sound like UVSC is abandoning its tradition as a trades and technical training school. Officials on campus insist they are not.

The changes are the result of enrollment trends, they say.

"We would be giving up on them if we didn't worry about it and (the trades and tech education) went away," said Ernie Carey, the dean of the School of Technology and Computing.

UVSC apprenticeship students typically work in their industries during the day and take courses at night. When they graduate, their diplomas state they've earned an associate in applied science in apprenticeship degree, with emphases in the various fields.

But many students were only taking enough classes for licenses or journeyman exams, dropping out of UVSC before graduation.

When enrollments in the later part of the program drop to two or three students, the program becomes expensive to offer, Carey said.

UVSC officials visited with local employers, asking whether employees should have associate's degrees. Many said associate's degrees are unnecessary, Carey said.

Last year, MATC, a part of the Utah College of Applied Technology, began offering apprenticeship programs.

MATC apprenticeship students will not finish with an associate's degree. Instead, they get a certificate. But they save money in tuition.

MATC's apprenticeship programs cost $250 a semester. UVSC's cost $387 a semester.

"It's a partnership deal, so the students all attend the same class," said Lori Stewart, MATC's apprenticeship programs manager. "There's UVSC students and there's MATC students. It's the same class, the same curriculum and the same instructors. It's different avenues to register."

UVSC approached MATC about starting a non-degree program, which began in January and had 74 students. UVSC had 361 apprenticeship students. This fall, the MATC program grew to 111 students. Stewart hopes the MATC program will continue to grow.

"We're hoping more students find out about (the MATC program), and you know, it just depends which way they want to go," Stewart said. "If they want that degree and if they don't want the degree. We're just trying to get the correct information out there so they can choose the correct institution."

UVSC students take additional general education classes to earn associate's degrees.

"It doesn't make a difference to me when I hire them," said Dave Told, owner of Told Plumbing, about whether his employees need associate's degrees. Told has 20 apprentices from both UVSC and MATC working for him.

However, Told feels differently when he's looking for a supervisor. He's more likely to hire someone with an associate's degree but prefers an associate's degree in management or accounting, he said.

Earlier this month, UVSC's Board of Trustees approved a new associate's degree for students in apprenticeships: the associate's in applied science in technology. The governor-appointed Board of Regents will review the program in coming months. UVSC hopes to offer the degree next fall.

The difference between the AAS in technology and the AAS in apprenticeship is that the technology degree is for people who have received a certificate or are returning to school after working. They can earn credit for their previous experience through a portfolio that presents a rationale for receiving credit.

The AAS in apprenticeship degree is for students already enrolled in UVSC's apprenticeship program. UVSC plans to continue offering that degree.

"As long as students are going through it and want to do it, that's the determining factor," Carey said.

Jared Bales opted not to attend UVSC — where he had previously tried out computer science and psychology programs — when he decided to return to school for plumbing.

He chose MATC.

"It's cheaper," said Bales, 33. "UVSC's a great school, I just didn't want to go back and do a bunch of classes on top of what I already had."

Bales even asked his employer for his opinion on associate's degrees. He wasn't promised better pay with the degree.

"One guy I was working with the other day, I asked him about it," Bales said. "He thought it was a bunch of baloney to get a degree to plumb."

Bales said he may one day return to UVSC to get a degree. He's interested in business classes. But the AAS in technology degree, as it's currently planned, does not have any classes in management, finance, accounting or marketing. Business principles are instead taught as part of math and technology classes.

Former UVSC President Wilson Sorensen, who has publicly questioned whether trades and technical education will survive when UVSC becomes a university July 1, 2008, said he is glad UVSC is changing to meet the needs of trades and tech students.

"I think (trades and technology are) what built the school," said Sorensen, who has authored a history of the school. "During World War II, when we didn't have enough tradesman to make the machines for the Allies, they got some federal money to (start the school and) awaken people's interest in those jobs."

But Sorensen, who led UVSC for 37 years until 1982, still worries that students will be put off when UVSC becomes Utah Valley University.

"A university degree would make it sound like it's not for the common man," Sorensen said. "It's for people who are on a higher level of status in your community, and (trades and tech students) won't even come and register for classes. They'll think, I'm out of place. It's a university and not for us. I still have that worry."


UVSC Programs

Utah Valley State College offers apprenticeship programs in a handful of areas. Some programs are always offered. Some are only offered when enough students express interest:

Aircraft mechanics

Carpenters union

Diesel mechanics

Electrical construction

Electrical union

HVAC

Industrial maintenance

Lineman

Lineman meter

Lineman substation

Plumber

Sheet metal


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