Spanning the disciplines of high technology and European craftsmanship, students at North Seattle Community College’s Watch Technology Institute are learning a trade that is in demand around the world. With certification from the Watchmakers of Switzerland Technical Education Program (WOSTEP), graduates can expect to find employment quickly.
That’s because half of the country’s 5,000 to 6,000 trained U.S. watchmakers are expected to retire in the next 10 to 20 years. Yet, North America’s watch training schools only graduate about 80 people annually, according to Jewelers' Circular Keystone (JCK,) the jewelry industry's leading trade publication.
Nine students will take a major step toward earning WOSTEP certification and a good job the week of August 17 as they take an 18 ½-hour final examination administered by a WOSTEP official from Switzerland. The two and a half-day examination tests the students as they overhaul a quartz analog watch, an automatic watch, a chronograph watch and the theory of horology.
NSCC's Watch Technology Institute is one of only three WOSTEP-accredited training programs in this country and the only one west of the Mississippi. The American Watch Association identifies the NSCC Institute as among the country’s top watchmaking schools. The college’s program incorporates 3,000 hours of training over a period of two years. Students can also earn an associate of arts degree by participating in the program. The program begins each fall.
“Success in the examination garners the WOSTEP certification, a jewel in the crown of any aspiring craftsman,” said instructor Elaine Rolf, a former co-manager of the repair division for Ben Bridge chain of jewelry stores.
She adds, “But achieving the jewel does require hard work. This program is rigorous and has high standards. We expect our students to spend at least 40 hours a week in their studies and require potential students to take an entrance exam consisting of a series of tests and an interview. These tests ensure that students can meet the rigorous requirements that are required in the field of watch repair such as eye-hand coordination, steady hands, depth perception, memorizing parts and their position/order.
North Seattle has been a WOSTEP Partnership school since 1994 and enjoys other partnerships with Ben Bridge Jewelers and Rolex, from whom it received a $1 million grant in 2000 to continue to grow and to offer cutting-edge instruction.
“Our responsibility towards the young people of today and tomorrow is to enable them to master a profession, to enjoy it and to be able to offer well appreciated services through their knowledge and skills. North Seattle Community College is helping us meet the needs of the Swiss Watch Industry,” WOSTEP Director Antoine Simonin said.
WOSTEP,an independant and neutral institution located in Neuchâtel, Switzerland, is recognized as an exemplary training center in the field of watchmaking and an essential link in the chain of success that Swiss horological products enjoy on international markets. This unique institution is financed by its members, which includes leading Swiss watch brands, watchmaking organizations, other associated sectors and retailers in Switzerland and around the world.
WOSTEP provides services for the Swiss watch industry and its representatives around the world. It has been coordinating the Partnership with watchmaking worldwide since 1992.
The aim of this program is to improve and standardize training internationally within the field of watchmaking. The Partnership offers its services in English, French and German. Students who pass the final examinations in a WOSTEP-approved school are awarded the WOSTEP certificate, which is recognized throughout the world as a superior qualification in watchmaking.
Currently, there are 14 WOSTEP Partnership watchmaking schools in six different countries: USA, China, Japan, Sweden, France and Germany. There are three Partnership schools in the United States, of which NSCC is one. More information on the North Seattle Watchmaking Technology Institute is available by calling Rolf at (206) 526-0169. 7/07/03