Hawkeye Community College

Hawkeye Community College is positioned well to be an innovator in STEM education.  The college was established as the Hawkeye Institute of Technology in 1966 and was the only technical school in the State of Iowa at that time.  In those early years, John Deere helped Hawkeye with training programs in drafting, manufacturing, engineering and electronics. This effort evolved into a long-standing partnership between Deere and Hawkeye.  In 1992, Hawkeye Community College became a comprehensive community college.  Through all the years the college has maintained strong connections with John Deere and many other businesses and industries in the area and currently serves more than 25,000 credit and non-credit students annually. More than 90% of graduates find employment in their career fields immediately after graduation.  

Manufacturing is prominent in the local community served by Hawkeye and is followed closely by Trade, Transportation and Utilities.  These industries are the drivers of STEM innovation in the region. Iowa ranks fourth in the nation in manufacturing as a percentage of total employment and in Waterloo, where Hawkeye’s main campus is located, there are 300 manufacturing establishments ranking the city third in Iowa in terms of manufacturing-related positions. The total number of manufacturing establishments served by Hawkeye is 460 representing over 15,600 manufacturing jobs. In recent years, these manufacturers have faced a critical shortage of skilled manufacturing workers due to a shrinking labor pool. The decrease in the number of available workers is caused by a number of factors including: the aging of Iowa’s workforce, declining school-age population, and public misperceptions which fail to recognize manufacturing as a “first choice” career.

To address the trained worker shortage and as a result of the Governor’s STEM initiative in the State of Iowa, Hawkeye Community College has renewed efforts to be an innovator in STEM education and training.  In the fall of 2013, the college established a STEM task force to organize, support and motivate STEM efforts across the college.  In the summer of 2015, the college joined STEMconnector® and appointed a full-time STEM coordinator to oversee the growing STEM activities.  STEM efforts at Hawkeye are designed to meet students where they are by taking STEM to them in ways that are meaningful, accessible, and applicable to their lives and interests.  The goal is to capture the hearts of students with respect to STEM education and careers.  We know that STEM efforts will not be successful without passion.

Innovative Employer-Driven Pathways

Cedar Valley Career Connections

The college established an organization that connects secondary students to career opportunities in the region through interactive guest speakers, industry tours, job shadowing opportunities and internships.  This organization, Cedar Valley Career Connections, has established a database of business and industry partners who have made the commitment to support efforts to educate young people about job opportunities they may never have considered without this intervention.  A recent example of how students can be exposed to the manufacturing industry in an exciting way is an event that was held at Doerfer Companies, a manufacturer that partners with NASA and specializes in custom heavy capacity Automatic Guided Vehicle Systems.  This company opened its doors to over 200 public school children and provided them an opportunity to meet and have their pictures taken with Col. James Kelly, an Iowa native and a two-time NASA Space Shuttle pilot. At the same time, they were able to see what a manufacturing floor looks like, talk to manufacturing employees and learn more about manufacturing as a career.


This year, the college acquired a semi-trailer that was converted to a mobile simulation laboratory (SIMi).  The SIMi travels to many locations so students can experience operating heavy equipment, driving a semi, industrial painting and welding and 3D medical visualization in a safe and climate controlled environment through a virtual experience. Power Engineering and Manufacturing, Ltd. and Bertsch Cabinets joined with Hawkeye on STEM Career Accelerator Day to take the SIMi to a middle school where 375 seventh and eighth grade students were able to learn more about high demand occupations through virtual experiences and by talking to people experienced in these fields.  

Employability Skills Study

Hawkeye Community College offers 51 career and technical programs.  Each of these programs is served by an advisory committee with membership from local businesses and industries who often employ graduates of Hawkeye programs.  These committees provide advice on program content and help keep training up-to-date.  

The advisory committees have emphasized that employability skills, in addition to technical skills, are needed for student success as an employee.  These include the ability to communicate orally and in writing, to solve problems, to think critically and creatively, and to work as part of a team.  The college surveyed all advisory members for two years to gain their perspective on how well programs are currently teaching these employability skills.  STEM initiatives that support these skills will be implemented and their impact monitored by following trends with the data.  

Key STEM Programs

Reaching Students Early

Several programs are offered by Hawkeye Community College in partnership with 19 businesses to reach students at an age when many begin to lose interest in STEM.  Three examples are the Gateway Academy Camp, Girls Exploring Trades and Technology (GETT) Camp and the STEM Career Fair.  These events include activities to increase awareness and promote careers in STEM among middle school and junior high students. The overall goal for these events is to improve each student’s desire and ability to further his/her education in STEM and to build an early pipeline to meet employment needs. Many students are able to attend camps free of charge because of committed foundation, school, industry, and other in-kind contributions.

The Gateway Academy provides a unique STEM experience for seventh and eighth grade students. It features the Project Lead The Way activity-based “Gateway to Technology” curriculum which is offered at various sites throughout the Hawkeye service area.  Students receive a certificate of completion at the end of the program. Almost 100 seventh and eighth graders participated in 2015.  

The GETT camp is geared toward connecting eighth grade girls with STEM careers and trades that are traditionally male-dominated. Female participants have the opportunity to take part in experiential hands-on activities, network with professional females and develop a greater understanding of traditionally male-dominated STEM career fields. Twenty-two 8th grade girls participated in the 2015 camp.  

The STEM Career Fair format is structured to allow students to visit three, 20 minute, hands-on sessions in a variety of STEM career pathways. Local businesses and Hawkeye faculty put on these presentations and activities for the students, helping to create a clearer understanding of the skills necessary to be successful in engineering, finance, healthcare, manufacturing, mathematics, science, the skilled trades and more.  Almost 1,500 students from seventeen school districts plan to attend the 2015 STEM Career Fair.


Historically, the college has experienced little success in matriculating English Language Learning (ELL) and Adult Basic Education (ABE) students who are working toward their high school diplomas into college level programming.  Many of these students desire a college education but the social, economic and communication barriers are a great hindrance.  In the spring of 2015, Hawkeye Community College conducted a pilot of the Integrated Basic Education and Skills Training (IBEST) model in Computer Numerical Control (CNC) operation at the Hawkeye Metro Center, an adult education facility.  The pilot included 11 ABE and 21 ELL students for a total of 31 students.  These students represented more than five countries and many languages.  This contextualized learning program employed two instructors for each group of students.  One instructor worked on the development of basic education and English skills and the other was the content specialist for CNC operation.  Over the course of sixteen weeks, 30 students successfully completed the program and earned five college credits.  Of the 30 completers, 23 continued their ABE/ELL education, three continued on in the regular CNC college program, three went into a different college program, two received promotions at their place of employment and four got a new job.  The CNC instructors for the pilot were given teaching and tutoring assignments for the fall term in the regular college program to help students adjust to the college environment and build relationships with full-time faculty.  The college is monitoring these students to learn more about where barriers to their success may exist.  The CNC instructors for the pilot will begin with a new group of students starting in the spring of 2016.  The hope is that a new pipeline will be established and more of these individuals will move into college programs and earn college credentials.

STEM Mobile Exploratorium

The college recently acquired a semitrailer that expands to create space for a classroom that can accommodate up 24 students.  The college is committed to using this mobile lab (STEMi) to carry STEM education throughout the Hawkeye Community College service area and beyond.  Rural school districts in Iowa are experiencing declines in enrollment and often have inadequate resources to support STEM programming.  The STEMi will travel to rural locations, as well as metro locations, to share curriculum and technology that may not otherwise be available to students in those locations.  This year, the theme is A Three Dimensional View of the World.  A 3D projector and curriculum menu is available along with interactive 3D work stations where students can view and manipulate images in a virtual world.  Then, 3D printers can be used to take virtual images into reality so students can physically manipulate the items they have studied.  The curriculum includes aspects of biology, chemistry, physics, astronomy, health, machines and more.

Communications and Social Media for Institution

Social Media Contact Person: JoAnna Nieman, joanna.nieman@hawkeyecollege.edu, 319-296-2320 x1399

Facebook Page: www.facebook.com/HawkeyeCollege

Twitter: https://twitter.com/HawkeyeCollege

Hashtags we use: #HawkeyeCollege


844 W 4th St
Waterloo, IA 50702
United States
(319) 296-2320