The president and CEO of Elizabethtown Community and Technical College, Dr. Juston Pate, is making a big ask of the 2022 legislature.
As part of his budget, Pate is hoping for an investment in the college to renovate the Vocational Technical Building, the second oldest building on campus.
“It’s not a desire,” he said. “Everyone misinterprets these requests because we want a new building. No. We’re trying to provide advanced 21st century manufacturing training in a factory that was built in 1965. It’s a need, if there is one.
Built in 1965, Pate said the building did not allow the college to keep pace with the training required for modern technology training, especially with all of the current and upcoming advanced manufacturing opportunities in the region.
“It just represents where we’re going as a college and as a region to think through and define a building that will reflect the state of today’s manufacturing, but it will also help meet the needs of today’s manufacturing,” he said. he declares.
With the college in the planning phase with architect renderings, the project is expected to cost $37.5 million with expenses split between two biennia over two construction phases, Pate said.
The work so far has been to identify the needs, what the spaces will look like and how to change the nature of the building when it was built for a training that no longer exists at the college, Pate said.
“It was a challenge trying to fit this shiny new round peg into a rusty old square hole,” he said.
Some of those needs are obvious and are being fixed, like workers fixing the roof on Wednesday, but those issues are only scratching the surface, said electrical technology professor Tim Cordova.
“We have creaking bricks and mortar,” he said. “Here we try to sell our program as the newest and greatest – and these bots are… – but when we try to recruit…” he said, pointing to the brown classroom dim, to indicate that this is what students see.
In order to train a workforce ready for new technologies at plants such as Blue Oval SK – Ford’s twin battery plants coming to Glendale – or Nucor coming to Brandenburg, Cordova said improvements were needed.
“We need the infrastructure,” he said, pointing to a standard-size door in the room. “One of the things with our classrooms is that we’ll often have a robot…but how do you get stuff through that door?”
Needs include garage doors in classrooms to move large equipment in and out, proper power drops — Cordova said teachers built an overhead bus in a classroom — and more internet port, adding to update the software on some of the machines they have to move them to another classroom with an internet port.
“We try to do the best we can,” he said, adding that teachers had painted some of the classrooms. “There’s only a little polishing you can do.”
What teachers need is versatility, Cordova said.
“If I wanted to teach this class, let’s say I want to move it to another class, I don’t have the bus, I don’t have the electricity requirements for that,” he said. “So we lack the versatility to be able to teach a variety of different technologies, because we are limited by our power and our gate openings. We are truly limited and constrained.
Jared Spalding, professor of welding technology, said space is a major constraint to maintaining labor supply.
“This particular course that I am teaching at the moment is good for welding students, maintenance students and electrical students,” he said, adding that two sections are taught during the day, which are full. . “If we had more room and more cabins, we could have another class.”
While the college could expand and offer another classroom, space prevents it, Spalding said.
“It would be easy to fill another class,” he said.
Spalding also said the classroom needed a better ventilation system.
“It got us through, so it’s not that it’s unsafe, it just needs updating,” he said.
In the winter, climate control in the classroom is a problem because the heating system can’t keep the room warm, Spalding said.
The classroom also doesn’t have enough electrical outlets and could use a separate space for grinders to help control dust and noise, Spalding said.
“Believe it or not, there aren’t many outlets to run a grinder,” he said, adding that they had to use extension cords to power some machines.
Rob Lowe, a professor of computerized fabrication and machining, said his syllabus was running out of space.
“We don’t have room for any type of equipment anymore,” he said, adding that their computer lab was running out of space for more monitors and needed more internet ports and electrical outlets.
The classroom is also poorly equipped when it comes to industry standards, Lowe said.
He needs an overhead crane to safely move the steel bar stock and other CNC equipment.
“If you go into industries, they have things that we dream of in terms of equipment, capabilities and what they do,” he said. “We just teach a lot of basic stuff.
“We could teach more modern machining practices with the addition of more space and newer equipment,” he added.
Pate also said some classrooms don’t have the necessary overhead clearance for certain operations students would see with employers, and “the walls can be in the wrong places.”
He pointed to the auto diesel program which does not have the interior space to work on a tractor-trailer, let alone a tractor-trailer.
“They’re still the fourth-ranked automotive diesel program in the nation,” Pate said. “People are getting over it. The training is there, but we could do it at a much larger capacity if the facility matched the people.
The building also acts as a deterrent to recruitment, Pate said, saying the “dark, dirty and outdated” building was hardly what people envision when they hear about cutting-edge manufacturing.
Cordova hopes lawmakers will find funds in the budget, and he looks forward to the day when the college can better meet the needs of students and employers.
“I know this president, he is going to involve us, all of his programs, in this discussion when the time comes” for the construction, he said. “I’m really excited about it. I think when our turn comes, I think we’ll have something pretty special.
Pate said he appreciates the legislature being receptive to the conversation about higher education and its importance to a skilled workforce for the state.
“I so appreciate all of the conversations that have taken place regarding not only investments in higher education and (the Kentucky Community and Technical College System) and the ECTC, but the real bipartisan conversations that we have had about where where we as a Commonwealth need to be in order to support this investment and future investments to come,” he said.
Gina Clear can be reached at 270-505-1418 or [email protected]