German tech company ZOLLER Inc., whose North American headquarters are in Ann Arbor, has donated nearly $250,000 in equipment to Washtenaw Community College’s (WCC) advanced manufacturing program. The donation is part of ZOLLER's larger mission to engage with the Washtenaw County community and spark interest in tech and manufacturing careers.
ZOLLER Training and Development Manager Michael Stepke are leading the partnership with WCC. He says ZOLLER wanted to give back to the community it has been part of since 2018.
In addition to cutting-edge equipment, ZOLLER will also offer WCC students a two-year Application Engineer Apprentice program that will result in two years of guaranteed employment with ZOLLER. Students who participate in the apprenticeship will also have their WCC tuition covered entirely by ZOLLER.
“All of our employees are excited about this relationship,” Stepke says. “Everyone feels connected to this county and to WCC.”
Stepke and other ZOLLER partners will also assist in developing and even teaching the curriculum WCC will use in the upcoming fall semester, teaching students to use computerized numerical control (CNC) equipment.
“A lot of companies in the southeast Michigan area use this technology already, and students will be able to learn the technology at school level and take that as an incentive into the company once they graduate,” Stepke says. “We’re providing equipment that is seldom found in the education area.”
ZOLLER’s connection with Washtenaw County schools doesn’t end with WCC. Stepke also describes connections being made at Pioneer and Saline high schools with WCC staff's help.
“In order to attract talent and interest them in the apprenticeship direction, we have to go one step further into the high schools,” Stepke says. “… Sometimes these interactions and impacts are turning points in a student’s life.”
Saline High School, for example, already has an existing manufacturing program, offering the opportunity to earn college credit at WCC before graduation. Stepke hopes that ZOLLER's efforts will set students on paths to tech and manufacturing careers starting as early as high school.
“WCC has been really strong with us, and an excellent partner in developing this network,” Stepke says. “This has always been very dear to my heart, and it’s all coming together now.”
To learn more about ZOLLER’s apprenticeship program through WCC, visit WCC’s website or call (734) 677-5221.
Rylee Barnsdale is a Michigan native and longtime Washtenaw County resident. She wants to use her journalistic experience from her time at Eastern Michigan University writing for the Eastern Echo to tell the stories of Washtenaw County residents that need to be heard.
Photo by JD Scott Photography.