August 1, 2008

It Will Blend Time for Students at University, OWATC

By Brooke Nelson, Standard-Examiner, Ogden, Utah

Aug. 1--OGDEN -- His last final at Weber State was Wednesday, but Nick Jenkins has been waiting to finish this degree for years. The new associate of applied science degree offered by WSU is available for the first time this summer.

"It means a lot to me," Jenkins said. "I worked pretty hard for it." Ogden-Weber Applied Technology College has been working since 2005 to secure an associate degree for its students, but was continually denied by the Board of Regents.

Concerns about technical colleges granting degrees and academic credit stonewalled the project until Weber State stepped in last year. The university's name will appear on the diploma, but about two-thirds of the degree can be earned at OWATC.

The degree will be granted to students in approved apprenticeship programs who complete an additional 23 hours of general education and leadership course work at Weber State.

Apprenticeships usually take four years to complete -- at least 8,000 hours of on-the job training and about 180 hours per year of classroom instruction.

James Taggart, OWATC vice president of student services, said many professions such as plumbing require apprenticeships, and going a step further to earn an associates degree will prepare students for management positions.

"The focus of the courses is really helping that apprentice take more of a supervisory role," Taggart said.

Perkins finished a four-year machining apprenticeship at OWATC in 2003 and began taking general education courses at Weber State in anticipation of the associate degree proposed by OWATC. By the time the Board of Regents approved the new WSU degree in December 2007, Perkins needed only three more classes to fulfill degree requirements.

"For new students, they have to understand that in today's society you have to have a degree," Perkins said. "An associates degree will get you in the door. The standard has kind of been raised in the past 10 or 15 years as technology has advanced."

Perkins plans to continue toward a bachelor's degree in engineering. Warren Hill, dean of Weber State's College of Applied Science and Technology, said the WSU degree is not limited to students from OWATC. "It provides a path for students who want to go on for additional education," he said.

Taggart said the OWATC has about 800 apprentice students and half of them are interested in the degree.

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