Friday, February 21, 2020
CVTC Referendum Seeks to Address Workforce Needs
Several projects included in $48.8 million proposal
Eau Claire, WI – Chippewa Valley Technical College is presenting a $48.8 million referendum to voters on the April 7 ballot to fund a number of facilities projects as well as equipment and land purchases.
The proposal includes construction of a new Transportation Education Center for $28 million, an addition and remodeling at the Emergency Services Education Center for $9.2 million, the addition of an Automated Fabrication Lab at the Manufacturing Education Center for $3 million, and purchase of land adjacent to the River Falls campus for $2.5 million. Also included are the development of mobile labs, purchase of new technology, remodeling at the Menomonie and Chippewa Falls campuses, a storage facility, and two science labs.
According to CVTC President Bruce Barker, the overall goals are to meet the workforce needs of the region and address a growing labor shortage in some critical areas.
“The programs we offer and the job skills we teach directly impact the quality of life in the Chippewa Valley,” Barker said. “Skilled positions in healthcare, manufacturing, transportation, agriculture, as well as protective services all require the specialized education that only CVTC provides. That’s why it is critical for CVTC to keep its programming, technology and facilities current.”
The 124,000 sq. ft. Transportation Education Center would bring together CVTC’s transportation-related programs including Automotive Technician; Auto Collision Repair; Diesel Truck Technician; Truck Driving; and Motorcycle, Marine and Outdoor Power, plus an Agriculture Service Technician program scheduled to begin next year. Currently, these programs are in facilities that are too small or outdated and spread over four locations, preventing collaboration between them.
Adam Wehling, dean of agriculture, energy and transportation, said CVTC must also modernize to meet the demands of a rapidly changing industry. “We’re working on integrating the higher tech components – the more advanced computer controls, hybrid systems, electric vehicles, and all the computer controls and diagnostics that go with that,” Wehling said. “Electronics is becoming increasingly more important in all transportation programs. We teach it now, but not to the extent we need to.”
“There are exciting advancements in transportation, and it is impossible to provide adequate training in our outdated, undersized learning labs that were designed and built in the 1960’s,” Barker said.
Improved facilities would help CVTC address a growing shortage of workers in the field, Wehling added.
CVTC’s Emergency Service Education Center was built following passage of a CVTC’s only previous referendum in 1997.
“After 20 years, the demands for training in the emergency areas have changed,” said Shelly Olson, CVTC’s dean of health and emergency services. “What we built in the ‘90s is no longer adequate.”
Eric Anderson, associate dean of emergency services, says the proposed expansion and remodeling of ESEC would address critical needs of the law enforcement program. “We don’t have a place to teach defense and arrest tactics,” Anderson said. “We need a room free from obstructions with padding on the floor. We have to rent time and space at a local karate studio or other fitness center to do that training now.”
The law enforcement programs now have a required fitness component. “We’re also going off-site for fitness training now,” Anderson added.
The proposal includes an expanded firing range for firearms training, allowing for work with rifles and large enough to pull vehicles inside and set up more realistic scenarios. The building would also include a room for use of force virtual simulation.
Kasondra Mero, director of CVTC Paramedic, FireMedic, and EMT programs, said more classrooms and space to work with simulators are needed. “Right now, we have barely enough classrooms and we sometimes have simulations in hallways and closets,” Mero said. “We’ll pile up chairs to form what an emergency scene would look like. The referendum projects would allow us to create more realistic spaces.”
The proposal would add a dedicated Emergency Medical Services simulation area. The FireMedic program would also gain its own apparatus bay, a place to keep fire trucks and other equipment and would also serve as a space for the Candidate Physical Agility Test.
The proposed addition and remodeling would benefit not only students enrolled in degree programs, but people in emergency response positions in local communities.
“Throughout the year, we have a lot of continuing education here, with firefighters and first responders updating and practicing their skills and testing for continues certifications,” said Mark Schwartz, CVTC’s emergency services continuing education coordinator. “It will be better training for them because we would have better facilities.”
The proposed Automation Fabrication Lab would help address employers’ demands for trained welders. The 10,000 sq. ft. addition to the Manufacturing Education Center would allow for an upgrade to the curriculum in the Welding and Welding Automation programs, and increased collaboration with other manufacturing programs.
CVTC has a one-time opportunity to acquire 6.7 acres of land adjacent to the River Falls Campus that could be used for future expansion. The CVTC District Board has already approved the $2.5 million purchase, contingent on approval of the referendum.
“We urge all eligible voters in CVTC’s 11-county district to cast ballots in the upcoming election, and in light of the pandemic that has affected our daily lives, please consider absentee or early voting,” Barker said.
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