Bryan Albrecht: What It Takes To Lead a World-Class Technical College

An interview with Matt Kirchner and Dr. Bryan Abrecht, President and CEO of Gateway Technical College

Matt Kirchner

I’m Matt Kirchner, we are on location in Sturtevant, Wisconsin at Gateway Technical College’s SC Johnson iMET Center. Some have called this the most advanced Industry 4.0 learning center anywhere in the country, perhaps anywhere in the world. And we are with someone who is very, very well known to the world of technical education, who almost needs no introduction. Joining us today on The TechEd Podcast is the President, the Chief Executive Officer of Gateway Technical College, Dr. Bryan Albrecht. Bryan, thank you so much for coming on today.

Bryan Albrecht

It’s my pleasure, Matt. And thanks for that kind introduction. We are very proud of the iMET Center here at Gateway Technical College. And we know that it is a model of excellence in the area of advanced manufacturing, but it is really about the people, and I follow you and your podcast. And I’m so inspired by the guests that you have. And so it’s an honor for me to be here; for you to consider me one of the leaders in this field. And I think we’re gonna have a great program today.

What Makes Gateway Technical College Unique?

Matt Kirchner

We certainly are. And I can tell you that we love at The TechEd Podcast telling amazing stories of things that are happening in technical education. But all we can do is tell the story. It’s people like you and the great people of Gateway that create those stories. We’re really looking forward to hearing about that today. Bryan, I want to start out with this question: Now we have, in the state of Wisconsin, 16 technical colleges. In the United States, I believe it’s close to 1,000 community and technical colleges. Among that sea of great educational institutions, what would you say makes Gateway Technical College unique?

Bryan Albrecht

That’s a great question. And you’re so right, there are literally over 1,200 community and technical colleges across the nation. All of them have a specific mission and purpose to serve their region. And I’m so honored to represent Gateway Technical College because we, too, have a unique story about our history. And I would say that maybe is one of the key elements that makes us a little bit unique and hopefully distinctive to the citizens of our region. 

In fact, you have to go back over 100 years now. In 1911, Wisconsin’s legislature passed a piece of legislation that allowed communities of over 5,000 residents to impose a tax to advance an initiative called continuation schools. Essentially what it turned out to be was an extension of the comprehensive high school to add vocational education. So I’m very proud that Racine was the first community to do that. And so Gateway Technical College has its roots all the way back to 1911 as a result of this community saying we need skill development for the advanced manufacturing careers of the future. And it’s been a journey all the way through. And all you have to do is drive up and down the streets of the communities in which we support and you’ll see that legacy history. Horlick Malted Milk is an example, or Insinkerator, SC Johnson Corporation, there’s so many, Hamilton Beach. Who didn’t have a blender or mixmaster in their kitchen when they were growing up? All of those innovations were founded right here. And we believe in that time, the continuation school, now Gateway Technical College, was one of those innovations. 

In fact, Racine in the early 1900s was named The Innovation City by the number of patents that it had. And I think all of our listeners can identify with some of those: Dremel Tools was founded in Racine, the first automotive was founded in Racine. And so it has a huge legacy. So when I think about what makes Gateway unique, I think it’s that historic imprint that we have to help support the community as it evolved through the Industrial Age. And now, of course, into the technology-driven infrastructure that we have. So I’m proud that Gateway has been a part of that history. And that keeps us a little bit special and also innovative.

What Colleges are Leading the Nation in Technical Education?

Matt Kirchner

So certainly a spirit of innovation here in Racine County and southeastern Wisconsin, that spirit of innovation is alive and well at Gateway Technical College. Now you work with community colleges, technical colleges, educational institutions, all over the country, in some cases all over the world. As you think about that, Bryan, I’d be interested to know, inasmuch as Gateway is an innovator and a leader in that field, if you had to pick a few other institutions that are also leading, which would they be?

Bryan Albrecht

Well, there’s many. I’m just so excited to be able to work with colleges all across the country as we help develop relationships and partnerships for faculty engagement and training, as you know, to help support the next generation of workers. But Lee Lambert comes to mind right away. A good friend of mine over in Arizona. Lee leads the Pima system and is doing remarkable work with companies like Apple and really creating new opportunities on the innovation platform. And he’s been dealt some challenges as their state has made some structural changes in the way they operate their community and technical colleges. And he’s just been a really strong champion in community building. And that’s what I pride Gateway on a community-building institution. 

Steve Head in the Houston area, the Lone Star State, just probably between Steve and Ivy Tech in Indiana, the two largest community college systems in the country serving over 100,000 students. And a Gateway we serve 20,000. And I think we’re pretty busy. I can’t imagine what it would be five times the size. So I admire Steve and his leadership in the community.

Bill Pink over in Grand Rapids. Bill’s doing a remarkable job in Michigan to help really build capacity and infrastructure for changing economies, as we all know, and a very strong advocate for the fact on diversity, inclusion and making sure that all students have access to great educational partnerships.

And then I’d be remiss if I didn’t just mention Annette Parker over at South Central College in Minnesota. Anette is a champion across the board, started her career working for General Motors, went on to pursue higher education, and now is the President of the college there. And we partner with all of those institutions and many more across the nation, because just as hopefully they learned from us, we learn a lot more from them.

What Will Change or Become Obsolete in Technical Education in the Next 10 Years?

Matt Kirchner

And isn’t that what it’s all about: learning from each other? As our producer Melissa Martin smiles at me, I have to tell you that we did not put Bryan up to this. Dr. Bill Pink from Grand Rapids Community College is joining The TechEd Podcast here in a few weeks, so he’ll be recording right alongside us. Good to know that we’ve got an innovator there, in your view, and that he’ll be a fantastic guest here on The TechEd Podcast. 

You know, you mentioned you mentioned Apple in your last answer. You mentioned organizations that are innovating. We’re really seeing a tremendous change in the world of technical education, are we not? And I have an interesting question for you, Bryan, if we look out the next 10 years, is there a program? Is there a practice here at Gateway that you see going away in this age of innovation?

Bryan Albrecht 

Yeah, I think all of our faculty and our leadership teams are constantly looking at what the next evolution is of their programs. We do an evaluation every year of our programs and try to assess the impact that they’re having in the community, the types of job opportunities that are available, and then how do we establish the types of educational pathways that are going to allow students to be successful in those areas. 

But I think everyone would probably agree that information technology, IT, the idea of data is really driving the new economy. And we see it very clearly in the types of services that we all expect, right? We buy our car now online, and it’s delivered to our home. The idea of logistics, transportation, distribution. You know, the pandemic certainly taught us all a lesson that we can get supplies delivered anytime, anyplace. And it’s really remarkable to think about how those fields – whether it’s advanced manufacturing, the production, or the distribution, or the infrastructure, and how do we access those materials or services – all of that is dynamically changing. When I first started teaching, I remember, you know, we would teach a course in forklift driving. And I think it’s still important, we still do some of that. But now, forklifts are automated guided vehicles, and they drive themselves. So we got to learn programming, and how does computer software management fit into what might have been a typical logistics job? Those are the types of things we’re gonna see more of that integration of technologies, the integration of competencies, and evolution of disciplines, maybe not completely eliminating, but they will look different.

What International Tech Ed Practices Should We Implement in the United States?

Matt Kirchner

So just tremendous change happening in education, tremendous change happening at Gateway Technical College, and we see this rate of change literally all over the world. We’re coming up now on three years, Bryan, that you and I traveled to Japan together to Tokyo to spend some time with FANUC. I have great memories of that trip. And I know you have traveled literally all over the globe, looking at best practices in technical education, seeing how people approach technical education differently, depending upon what region or what country they’re in. Is there a best practice in education that you’ve seen elsewhere that we should be thinking about implementing here in the United States?

Bryan Albrecht

Yeah, sure. You know, so you’re right. It’s been three years since we went on our trip to see how FANUC put together the automation and the robotic systems. But I was told just a few days ago that we can, we can actually say “two years” because that lost year of the pandemic, so we don’t have to really count that one. 

Matt Kirchner

So I’m a year younger than I think I am, as well.

Bryan Albrecht

Exactly, exactly. So there are many great examples across the country and across the globe. You’re right, I’ve been fortunate; I’ve had a chance to witness as many of those. The delivery models in China and Germany and Japan are very different from maybe some of the countries that I’ve visited like Switzerland. And I would say that that rises to the top of my list for our discussion today. They have a very unique and focused delivery point for their career pathways. In fact, in the United States, you know, about 60% of our high school students choose a postsecondary program based on some factor, maybe not necessarily based on a career or job. And in Switzerland, it’s just the opposite. 90% of their students are in what I would call a vocational or technical track. And then they build systems that allow students to make choices to transition those skill sets into a university degree if they choose to. But they know that first and foremost, we must have skills in order to sustain our livelihoods. And that’s what it’s all about. 

So I’m hoping that you know, as we look at other countries, and like Switzerland, and maybe some of the apprenticeship programs in Germany, that we begin to replicate and model some of those ideals that we can help young people navigate the educational system and not only have one pathway to success. There are multiple pathways. In Wisconsin, as you know, we’ve been working very hard over the last probably 20 years or so on advancing the Youth Apprenticeship model, which is very successful – probably one of the most successful in the country – here in Wisconsin. And yet, it’s still a fraction of the impact that we need to have for helping students understand their own attributes, their passions, and how they can apply those in a career path with some postsecondary education that’s going to enhance that. And that’s primarily what we’re doing here at Gateway, is that applied learning model and helping to advance the passion and aligning that to some skill sets are going to be meaningful for students as they move into the job market.

How Did You Know Industry 4.0 Was The Next Big Thing?

Matt Kirchner

So skill sets meaningful to students as they move into the job market, certainly an important aspect of Community and Technical Education. Probably in some ways, the most important aspect of that education. One of those career pathways is this Industry 4.0 career pathway. And as smart sensors and smart devices and data analytics, and all of these systems, we have to advance manufacturing here in the United States and around the globe become even more ubiquitous, you have been way out in front of this trend. In fact, under your leadership, Bryan, Gateway’s lead the nation, many would say, in developing and deploying industry 4.0 courses. You have the world’s first Smart Factory Enterprise System anywhere in the world here at Gateway Technical College at the SC Johnson iMET Center. How did you know, as the leader of Gateway, that Industry 4.0 was the next big thing before anyone else in education saw this freight train coming down the tracks?

Bryan Albrecht

Well, Matt, I have to credit you and the team that you’ve put together to help us understand some clarity around the vision of the evolution of manufacturing. It’s pretty evident when you drive around our community. And that’s why I’m so proud of our history, because we get to reflect on all of the changes that have taken place. You know, as Gateway is 110 years old, SC Johnson’s 125 years old. So we all kind of grew up in the same fashion. 

So first and foremost, we listen to our local employers. And what are the changes in the skill sets that they have? And how do we adapt that at Gateway. And in some cases, you would know that it’s an incremental stepping stone, right? So we learn hands-on skills, and then we’ve evolutionized into Computer Numerical Control. And now we see automation and robotics in engaged in that. So that’s what I’m seeing in our local employers, whether it’s Insinkerator, SC Johnson, HARIBO Corporation moving to our community – all of them are engaged in that integrated skill set. So that was the first trigger. 

The second trigger was just observing how quickly the economy is changing, and what the expectations are for the jobs that our students are moving into. And if you look at the job market, the listing of jobs, and we have hundreds of jobs for CNC operators, so that tells me that programming is really important. We also know by watching the news and the media and all of the demographic forecasts for training, that data and data analytics are critical. So putting the puzzle together was really connecting with the right people. It’s connecting with organizations like yours, Matt. It’s connecting with our local employers. And it’s driven by the faculty expertise, they’re the ones in the front line that are helping to educate our young people. And I’m just proud that we were able to help make that commitment. 

Now, I would say there was a catalyst to it. And that was the announcement of Foxconn moving to our region – one of the global leaders in automation and integrated technology systems. So that forced us to quickly focus our conversation and not wait for incremental change, but make a wholesale change immediately, so that we were ready for that type of industry. 

How Can Education Keep Pace With Industry Innovations?

Matt Kirchner

And we’re looking forward to diving into that Foxconn discussion a little bit later this morning in the program. As you look at companies like Foxconn, as you look at other companies – you mentioned Insinkerator, HARIBO, you mentioned SC Johnson – their technology is evolving; their workforces are evolving at a rate that’s really unprecedented. We haven’t seen this rate, certainly in the century-long history of Gateway Technical College or or at any time in the history of the planet. What do you think education needs to do to keep pace with this changing world of industry? 

Bryan Albrecht

Well, first of all, I think we need to continue to be good listeners. It’s important to listen to what industry is saying, the types of skills that they need, and how do we evolve our programs to meet that need? There has always been this skills gap. But I think part of the skills gap is a communication gap. And that we know what we teach well in our schools, and especially here at Gateway, but is it current and contemporary with what is needed in the workplace? And how do we build that bridge? And we do that through partnerships. And many schools have advisory committees that help bring that voice to the forefront. We have faculty that work in industry and then come and teach for us; that helps bring it to the forefront. We do a lot of research on our program expansions to make sure that they’re aligned with the types of jobs that are not only here today, but are going to be here in the future, because there’s large capital investments for all of that. So I think to listen closely is important and then to observe what’s going on in the workforce. And then to build a partnership to bring those two entities together in order to sustain a training program that’s going to have meaningful results for our students.

What’s the Secret to Building Strong Industrial Partnerships?

Matt Kirchner

So, great opportunities to lead in terms of listening to every single stakeholder in education and making sure that we are acting on the ideas and their predictions for where industry and where manufacturing, for instance, is going. Those partnerships are really, really important. I had the opportunity here at Gateway Technical College to serve on your Foundation Board. You invited me to do that a few years ago. I should note for our audience that since I joined the board, I believe that the Foundation fund balances more than doubled. I’m not going to pretend that there’s any correlation there. But according to your college’s website, now over $12 million sits in your Foundation, which is just absolutely amazing. In so many ways, you’ve helped set the gold standard in partnerships with private employers, leading to just incredible financial resources and the tremendous growth in the size of your college’s Foundation. And so many folks would look to you, Bryan is a great example of how to create those partnerships. What is the magic trick? How do you do it?

Bryan Albrecht

Yeah, well, I don’t know if there’s a magic trick. But I know there’s an awful lot of hard work that goes into it. And first of all, thank you for your continued support of our college and colleges all across the nation. I know that you do so much for for each of us.

And the important role that a Foundation can play is it helps you create access for students, primarily around the concept of affordability. So starting promise programs, or scholarships dedicated to individual disciplines all have great meaning to those students that are going through those programs that maybe couldn’t afford to go on or have some other financial barriers that can sometimes conflict with their education. 

So for me, it’s pretty simple. It’s just looking for that common goal. What do we do well at Gateway, and what is our focus in our mission to help young people and adults achieve their passion in a career? And then sharing that vision with potential partners, in this case, industry partners that have a similar need: they want a highly qualified workforce that’s going to you know, stay in our community and be able to help build capacity for their company. So if you can build those two common goals around one purpose and one mission, and think about all of the different ways to accomplish that, a lot of times, it’s a shared role and responsibilities. So we can build training capacity that can help end result, entry level skills for the employers. That seems to make a lot of sense. 

There’s also many of our community members that, based on their givingness, and their open heart, have a philanthropy feel. And I look at the population of students that we serve at Gateway. So many, almost all are first generation college students like I was, so it’s a new journey for them, right? And they didn’t come from wealthy homes. So we’ve got to find ways to establish a footprint, first have confidence of going into postsecondary education, but then making it possible. Whether that’s credit for prior learning, transcripted credit at the high school level to get their foot in the door, mentoring with individuals on campus, or establishing an affordability pathway with grants and scholarships. All of those touch points help build that success opportunity for students. And that’s our goal because we’re a community-based college.

Why Do You Believe Foxconn’s Future in Wisconsin is a Bright One?

Matt Kirchner

The TechEd Poodcast is on location at the SC Johnson iMET center in Sturtevant, Wisconsin, with Gateway Technical College’s President and CEO. Now, I should note that we are about a mile, maybe a little bit less, from this huge development that is taking place in southeastern Wisconsin known as Foxconn. Now, Bryan, this July will mark the four year anniversary since Foxconn announced its investment in Wisconsin. The scope of that investment has certainly changed somewhat in that period of time. But I’d like you to tell our audience why you believe Foxconn’s future in Wisconsin is a bright one. 

Bryan Albrecht

Yeah, absolutely. So, of course it’s changed. And I would expect that it will continue to change, right? If we just thought that Foxconn, when it originated in the early 70s, when they built the tuning knob for televisions, that’s how it all started, right? If we thought that was going to be their product today, there would be no Foxconn. So innovation is the key; they will continue to innovate. And the product lines that they’re looking at right now are not only the gold standard in our country, but with a gold standard around the world. So I continue to be very optimistic to be located in a region where we have companies that are focused on innovation, and continuing to evolve their product line. That’s what’s going to sustain their business. And that’s what’s going to keep our college viable. 

A good example of that is Snap-on Tools. So they pride themselves on yes, they make tools, but they innovate tools. Because usually once you have a set of tools, it might be good for the rest of your life, right? Unless you innovate that tool in some way. And so I think about what Foxconn is doing around the concept of innovation, and yes, moving from liquid crystal technology televisions to now server technology and surface mount technology. And the skill sets that are required there are similar to what we talked about in Computer Numerical Control. The individual technician must be able to manage the data and program the machines to do the operations that are so high-tech that human individuals wouldn’t be able to do alone. So that’s the kind of skill set that I see as our focus here. And that’s really the foundation for Industry 4.0. So everything that we’ve invested in to create this platform to help our students elevate will be transferable to Foxconn, to Snap-on to HARIBO to Insinkerator, SC Johnson, and all of those have great value in our community.

Who is Your Greatest Role Model?

Matt Kirchner

And I should note for our audience that one of the key factors in Foxconn’s decision to locate in southeastern Wisconsin- and frankly a key factor of other great companies that are locating to this part of the country – a big influence was the presence and the role of Gateway Technical College and your leadership, Bryan. And on that topic, I think in some ways, many would look to you as a role model for leaders in Community and Technical Education. I want to ask you this question: in as much as you are a role model for others, who is your single greatest role model? And if you could pick only one, who would it be and why?

Bryan Albrecht

Wow, I actually have several, but I’m going to have to try to narrow it down because everyone that I meet adds value to my life and gives me a new perspective. I mentioned Nick Pinchuk at Snap-on Tools; he’s the CEO. He brings a focus to me around the importance of place. Snap-on could be located in any of the world and his comments always focus on we chose to locate in Kenosha because of the people. So that sense of place is very important. 

I think about Joe Ciontea, my high school teacher who gave me the confidence to get that first job. And still a great friend of both of ours and continues to lead in technology education and gives me great hope and optimism that our future is great there.

But, like many people listening, it’s probably your mom or dad, right? So I’d have to say it’s my dad. And I can share this little story hopefully with you. Just a quick perspective. My dad worked as a plant manager for Best Roller. It’s a paint roller company in Fond du Lac, it was there for many years. And you almost have to go back and unwind the story of the paint roller to understand the values that he shared with me when I was young, because that was my first job. I worked at Best Roller designing paint rollers of all things.

The paint roller was really founded in the early 1940s in Canada. And Norman Beckley was the founder of it, so he had a patent for it, but it wasn’t able to amplify it. Did not create a manufacturing center around it because he didn’t have the capacity to do that. It took a transition. Shortly after that two Mort Mothy in the United States; happened to be in Fond du Lac, Wisconsin where the paint roller was first manufactured. And my last year working there, which was several years ago now, under my dad’s leadership produced a million paint rollers a year. So it was a totally new system that helped create the opportunity for many hundreds of people in our community to have great jobs built on an innovation that needed to amplification.

And it’s that storyline, that history, that hard work that my dad shared with me. He spent his entire career there and helped me better understand the role that you can make in a community if you really invest in the people and understand how you can continue to stay innovative. And now that company certainly is evolved again over the years, and Joe Lieberman bought him out and became Best Lead Co and you might see it in the stores today at Purdy or Sherwin Williams. So they’re the owners now. So the idea of innovation and progression continue to grow today. My dad is no longer with us. But I know that he’s listening to this podcast too, in his own way. And knowing that his influence in that industry helped me shape my decisions to lead Gateway Technical College.

What Would You Tell Your Younger Self?

Matt Kirchner

And if you’ll pardon the pun, you paint a great picture of a young Bryan Albrecht working in a paint roller factory in Fond du Lac, Wisconsin. If you could go back and give that young Bryan Albrecht one piece of advice – knowing what you know now – what would you have told your younger self? 

Bryan Albrecht

Yeah, I would say to dream big. Because I have to tell you, I haven’t met many people that could actually say, “I planned my life out when I was 16 years old, and now I’m, you know, 60, and I’m doing exactly what I wanted to do.” Life evolves, and your opportunities evolve with it.

I had thought when I first started working at Best Roller that I would be the next plant manager for Best Roller, right? That was my career goal. And I met a lot of great people there, did some design work, got interested in CAD, took some classes in high school, met Joe Ciontea, went on to college, met some great people there, ended up working for the Department of Public Instruction, ended up transferring to Gateway Technical College, met some great people there. And here we are leading a college.

Could not have written that on a whiteboard when I was 16 years old, nor could have I written it when I was 26 years old. It took a lot of people to help me influence my vision and my dream for myself. And I think that would be my first recommendation that yeah, you’re going to have a lot of different choices and pathways along the way, but never settle for that’s the last one. Always be looking for the next vision then and dream that’s out there.

Would You Ever Serve Your State or Country in a Government Role?

Matt Kirchner

So speaking of the next vision and dream that’s out there, I know there are some people out there that have some pretty big dreams for Dr. Bryan Albrecht. You mentioned Nick Pinchuk’s name in a recent answer here. Nick was just recently a guest on The TechEd Podcast. And while Nick was on he suggested your name as a potential sometime future Governor of the state of Wisconsin. I can tell – I won’t mention the name – but you and I have a mutual friend at a national level, who has floated your name with the title, Secretary of Education behind it. Certainly people think that there’s opportunities for you to lead in even a bigger way than you do here at Gateway, perhaps. What is it that keeps you a Gateway? And I think the other question is, if called upon by your state or for that matter by your President to serve in a role on a national or statewide level, what would you do?

Bryan Albrecht

Well, first of all, let me just say that I’m absolutely flattered that people are saying that, because it gives me great pride that we are accomplishing our vision collectively together within our community and creating a platform that is being acknowledged and recognized. 

So first of all, I’d only run for another office if Nick would run with me because he’s really the champion on all of us. But I would say this about that: so first and foremost, Gateway is a great fit for me. I love the history, and the story, and the innovation, which we talked about earlier. It ties in with my own personal life story. And I think that helps to celebrate the dignity of work that I feel value toward. The types of curriculum offerings that we provide here are the type that are going to help people change their lives, whether it’s through the Foundation’s support, or whether it’s through the alignment in the job market. 

I think for me, though, if I had to quantify it, it’s the team of professionals that I work with – faculty, staff, administrators – they continue to be optimistic about the future. And we continue to look for the next evolution of Gateway. And I think that’s what keeps it exciting for me. Nothing is the same any one given day. We’re always looking to try to do something new. And we’re always working within our community to help build those opportunities for our students. 

The second piece, I’d say, that I haven’t found anywhere in the world that has as much opportunity as right here in southeast Wisconsin. Now, I mentioned some of the companies, SC Johnson is a global company – there are touch points all over the world if we want to find out what’s happening. Or Insinkerator, SC Johnson, Snap-on HARIBO, Amazon – all of those institutions are partners with Gateway. So we get to be a part of something much bigger than our home right here. And I think that’s so exciting and so encouraging. And the fact that we’ve had 100-plus years of history with those companies gives us the opportunity to celebrate their success, along with our success.

How Do You Foster Work-Life Balance?

Matt Kirchner

So there’s something to be said, for having a mission here at the college that is fully aligned with your mission as an individual. I will also note that that was an incredibly political answer. Which leads me to believe that may be doing something at the national scale might be right in your wheelhouse. But we’ll leave our audience to figure that out for themselves. 

To share a story here with our with our audience. This goes back about three years. Bryan, you had mentioned earlier, when we were working really, really closely together on visioning out the SC Johnson iMET Center, the Industry 4.0 approach to learning, and certainly, you know, I was proud to be just a small part of a great group of people that you had advising you through that process. And there was a time when we were communicating pretty regularly. And I was, I forget where I was, but I was traveling somewhere. And it was 11:30 at night, and I responded to a text message from you at 11:30 at night. And went to sleep and got up the next morning at about 4:30. So I didn’t get a ton of sleep. And in that period of time, in that five hours, you had responded to my text message at 11:30. And about 10 minutes before I got up had posted another text message to me asking a question. It just amazes me how quickly you get back to anybody and everybody. I like to say that everybody has their own version of work-life balance. It seems like yours is a little bit unique. What is your version of work life balance?

Bryan Albrecht

Yeah, that’s a great question. So first, let me just back up a little bit and say that I think people go through stages in their life. So right? So when you’re young in your life, and you have little children, you must spend time with that. That is your foundation. It will be with you for the rest of your life. And that becomes the priority, right? I encourage all of our employees: make sure you’re at the soccer games, you’re at the band concerts. Those memories will energize you and charge you to do better at your work life.

So for me, the work-life balance as I’ve evolved through my career, it’s kind of trying to fit them both in on the same peg, right? So work becomes part of my life, and part of my life becomes work. So if you came to Gateway in any one given day, or went to visit any of my family, you will see they all know about the Gateway experience. So my son-in-law graduated from Gateway, my grandson goes to our childcare center, our daughter took some programming here – everyone has a part of the experience. And that way, it doesn’t feel like work for me so much, because I’m also engaged in bringing some of that outside experience to the worksite. And then when I’m off of work, I’m also thinking about how can I network within our community to bring additional value? So I have something common to talk with our leadership in our community about. So if we’re at a community event, there’s always a common denominator somewhere – six degrees of separation – that brings us back to Gateway. So, really trying to blend the two as much as possible, but not making it feel like it’s going to add additional stress to either one:  the work life or the family life.

How Will Future Generations’ Education Experience Differ From Education Today?

Matt Kirchner

So it really sounds like it’s all about work-life integration and making it all work together. You mentioned the importance of being a good role model and raising your children, being there for your children. Now you have a totally separate level of that. The young man, or I guess the boy, who has become very very well known to the individuals in the Gateway community as Little Bryan. You are so very proud of your grandson, and you should be. He must be, what, about two years old give or take?

Bryan Albrecht

Yeah, 18 months now.

Matt Kirchner

18 months, awesome. So growing quickly. His educational experience is going to be quite a bit different from yours, from mine, from the Millennial generation, from the Gen X and Gen Z generation. How would you say that Little Bryan’s educational experience will differ from those other groups?

Bryan Albrecht

Now I wish everyone can see my smiling face because all you have to do is mention the other Bryan on campus and I just beam from it, so you’re right. I’m so proud of Alyssa, Anthony, and their son Bryan, and so honored that they would choose me as a namesake for him. I do know that he will face some very different educational experiences. I see it already, you know, while he loves to paint, he’s not using a paint roller, he’s using his fingers just like we all did. But he also has a lot of other services and support systems around him that are driven by technology. I can only relate this quick story that when I first started teaching, I taught drafting. I taught drafting with a piece of paper, a straight edge, and a pencil, right? And now, one generation later, our daughter, who is a biomedical engineer, does drafting but all on SolidWorks in 3D. I would imagine that her son, Bryan, will do something similar, but with virtual reality glasses and augmented reality, and it won’t be using a pencil or a piece of paper at all.

So the integration of technology and the way that education is delivered will continue to evolve and change. At Gateway, we pride ourselves on helping students broker their knowledge. So take some courses at Gateway, take some at UW-Parkside, maybe some of Carthage and help build a platform that’s going to serve you best. I bet that you’ll see – in Bryan’s lifetime – that you’ll see more students doing that type of education. Where it’s just online. Whether it’s going to be, as we talked about here through a podcast, or through some type of short video clip, or they’re going to take a course somewhere, and he may take courses from teachers all over the world to get the best education to support himself.

What’s the Biggest Threat to Technical Education?

Matt Kirchner

So what a flexible delivery model we are going to see in the future of technical education, and education in general! Many would see that flexible model as a positive, I think there’s plenty of benefits that come out of that. Some might see it as a threat. As you think about the future of technical education, what is the biggest threat to that future? And what do you think we should do about it?

Bryan Albrecht

Yeah, I think there’s probably several. One of them that is near and dear, I think, to our conversations in the past has been the teacher shortage. Making sure that we have enough qualified instructors to be able to help engage and encourage young people to pursue their passion. That’s going to be key because we see it and we’ve witnessed it in the past where, you know, if we don’t have a great teacher, then we end up closing that program. And those opportunities are no longer available for young people. And then they don’t know what their dream might be.

So we’ve got to find ways to engage young people into the pathway of teaching so that we can keep that inspiration alive. Just on the way up to this podcast, I stopped at our Fab Lab, and I saw all the 3D printing that was going on. And I know that’s happening in schools all across the country. And it takes a special teacher to do that, and an evolution of a traditional teacher to learn new skill sets. So you know, whether we talk about having access to education, or whether we’re going to be able to keep it affordable, the driving force to all of that is the teacher in the classroom. So I’m going to continue to support the ongoing encouragement, and the professional development of our faculty and staff.


Matt Kirchner

Interesting. So that teacher shortage, and we know that it’s acute here in Wisconsin, across the United States in many ways across the globe, being a huge threat. But of course, leaving it on a positive as you always do, which is to continue to support the teachers that we have and inspire new young people to enter the field of teaching so we can continue to support education. I want to thank Dr. Bryan Albrecht from Gateway Technical College. He serves here as the President and the Chief Executive Officer for joining us here on The TechEd Podcast. Bryan, I’ve learned so much from you in the last many years about leadership, about innovation, about creating really, really rock solid partnerships and about inspiring large groups of people to do great things. I want to thank you for inspiring us today on the TechEd Podcast.

Bryan Albrecht

Well, it’s my pleasure. And thank you for continuing to offer these series of podcasts. I think anytime anyone can take a few minutes to hear from others, you can always learn from that. And it’s just been a pleasure to be a part of your program. Thank you. 

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