October, 9 2015 – Norfolk, Nebraska – Nearly two years to the day after ground was broken, officials of Northeast Community College dedicated the institution’s newest educational facility. Students actually began classes in the $9.1 million Applied Technology building on the Norfolk campus in August, but the College Board of Governors, administrators, faculty, staff and guests christened the 67,000 square foot structure during a dedication ceremony and open house Thursday afternoon.
“There is nothing like today,” said Dr. Michael Chipps, Northeast President. “Excitement doesn’t quite define the feelings of many people who have, for years, visualized this building. They have always done a great job of teaching, but there’s nothing like a place to teach in. For generations to come, the faculty here will be mentoring countless students toward meeting our workforce needs in Northeast Nebraska and beyond.”
The Applied Technology building contains several programs, Building Construction, Electromechanical, Electrical Construction and Control, Heating Ventilation and Air Conditioning (HVAC), and some classes in the Diversified Manufacturing Technology and Wind Energy Technology programs. The programs were previously housed in four separate buildings.
The new facility includes multipurpose classrooms, labs for hands-on-training and lab support areas including a fabrication/tool room. Labs will be large enough to allow for adequate space for equipment so students may work in a safe environment. The building will also include expanded storage areas, faculty offices and a student lounge/study area to serve over 200 students.
TR Raimondo, chairman of Behlen Manufacturing in Columbus, said the Applied Technology building will play an important role in creating a skilled workforce. He told those at the dedication that one of the keys to convincing the manufacturing industry that it can compete globally is tapping into the education pipeline.
“We are here in this incredible facility and you are creating skills, skills and skills to several different markets. We are all striving to help students come out of the education trail with maybe two things. The first is a skill to get a good paying career. The second thing, which community colleges do better than any arm in the education world, is (have students) come out with minimum debt.”
Raimondo, who works closely with the “Dream It, Do It” campaign, which is designed to raise awareness of advanced manufacturing and STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) careers by developing programs that support young people, said that particular program is a critical component to showcasing such careers.
“In my view, the ‘Dream It, Do It’ program was designed to change the image of manufacturing – and you see it here. You are getting prepared to fight globally – and not only fight, but win globally. The digital era, with the integration of electrical, mechanical, and IT (information technology) is a very challenging and sophisticated area that requires skills. We have the answers in business (and) we in business need to keep reaching out to help you in education. This is incredible what you have accomplished. The region, the 20 counties are now going to have better opportunities to compete globally.”
John Blaylock, Vice President of Educational Services at Northeast, said the new building will be a critical piece in Northeast’s work in preparing a globally competitive workforce.
“Bridging the gap between education and industry has never been more important than it is today. This facility and its programs are excellent examples of what can happen to prepare the workforce of tomorrow by engaging in collaborative conversations today.”
Northeast has joined the National Coalition of Certification Centers (NC3), which is a national consortium of colleges and industry leaders, who work together to address the increasing demands for a skilled workforce. Blaylock said the work being done by Northeast Community College with NC3 and its industry partners are evident throughout the building and across the curriculum in the technical programs.
“The aging workforce continues to be a challenge for all of us. It is imperative that education and industry continue to inform young people and those looking to re-tool their skills of the outstanding opportunities offered in programs such as you will see today.”
Lyle Kathol, Dean of Applied Technology, said Thursday was a ‘great day’ for career and technical education at Northeast.
“Nearly 80-percent of the jobs out there require technical training or an associate’s degree today. I tell people, ‘If you need a job we have a program for you! We have numerous high tech, high wage, high demand careers for any age.’ This facility, equipped with the best equipment, best technology and the best faculty you can buy, serves the needs of employers in business and industry, not only in Northeast Nebraska, but far beyond.”
Dan Frohberg is a veteran member of the Northeast faculty, serving as an instructor in the Electrical Construction and Control program. He called Thursday a ‘celebration,’ recognizing the hard work of the number of people who worked on putting the plans in place for the building.
“To the Board of Governors, Dr. Chipps, and all senior administrative staff, we would like to thank you for all your support in making this project happen. A big thank you to Lyle Kathol and Jay Connelly (former Associate Dean of Applied Technology) for taking our ideas and putting them into a working plan that have become the building you see here.”Frohberg said, “The excitement we can see and feel from instructors and returning, new and future students, makes all the work in planning and moving in worth it. We can now look forward to new and expanded frontiers in curriculum and students who will be served in this new facility.”
Jonathan Schulte, of Atkinson, is a non-traditional student in the Electrical Construction and Control program and plans to enroll in the Electromechanical program next year. He said he chose to attend Northeast after working with former students in the electrical programs.
“They helped me build structures that I built back in Atkinson at my wife’s dental clinic…and from the experience I gained with them, it pushed me into the electrical field as well. I thank you all for the opportunities I have been given here as a Northeast student. We have had the ability to help build this place. It doesn’t get any more real world than that.”
Dr. Chipps said the new building brings other opportunities to the Northeast campus.
“Not only will the new Applied Technology building allow for much needed classroom and lab space for our programs and the students in those programs, it will let us provide space to expand other programming possibilities at Northeast,” he said. “Now that this new facility has opened, we can begin looking at the buildings that previously held programs housed here and repurpose those buildings to better meet the needs of our students and constituents. It will help to serve as a catalyst for new programming opportunities and other pressing campus needs.”
There is another factor with these projects: a safer campus. These facilities are located away from the majority of pedestrian traffic on campus.
“By moving heavy vehicle traffic away from the center of the campus, we are continuing to foster a pedestrian safe environment for our students, employees and the countless guests who continuously use our facilities for educational and recreational purposes,” Dr. Chipps said.