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Western and Ashley Furniture Announce Partnership

Founder and Chairman of Ashley Furniture Industries Ron Wanek and Western Technical College President Lee Rasch hold a plaque replica of the sign that identifies the new Ashley Automation Lab located in Western’s Integrated Technology Center. Ashley and Western representatives pictured L to R: Phil Hess, David Peterson, Bob Nichols, Andy Baker, Josh Gamer, Ron Wanek, James Dotta, Lee Rasch, Roger Stanford, Patti Balacek, Mike Swenson.

LA CROSSE, Wis., May 30, 2017 – Students in Western Technical College’s Electromechanical Technology program, as well as incumbent workers for any company, will soon have the opportunity to receive training on state-of-the-art Yakasawa robots and simulated trainers, thanks to a new partnership with Ashley Furniture Industries.

Six robots along with three simulator units will be placed in the Ashley Furniture Industrial Automation Lab inside Western’s newly constructed Integrated Technology Center on the downtown La Crosse campus. In addition, a portable training robot will be housed at the Independence Campus of Western to facilitate advanced training in a more rural setting.

“We have a great, advanced manufacturing center, and partnerships with businesses like Ashley Furniture help us keep the equipment as cutting edge as the facility,” said Lee Rasch, Western Technical College president. “We’re thrilled to add Yakasawa robotic certification to our program as well as offer this training to local businesses.”

“We are excited to partner with Western Technical College to provide our region with the robotics education necessary to compete in the global economy,” said Ron Wanek, Founder and Chairman of Ashley Furniture Industries. “Our goal is to provide students and those in the workforce with the opportunity to increase their skill set by utilizing this state-of-the-art equipment and training.”

In addition to the donation of the robots, the Ron and Joyce Wanek Foundation has made a donation to Western’s Foundation that will allow Western faculty to become certified on the equipment. Western will be the only technical college in this region with both the automation lab and the instructor certification required to fully train all levels of robotic technicians. In total, Ashley Furniture’s contributions exceed over $470,000 in form of equipment donations and paid instructor training certifications for Western Technical College.

“It’s important for our faculty to receive training before we implement it in the classroom, and the cost of that training can sometimes be a barrier to having multiple people certified,” said Rasch. “We are grateful that the Wanek’s recognized this need and provided Western with the funds to move forward.”

The robots will be delivered this summer, allowing faculty to earn the certification prior to the start of fall classes.