- Associated Press - Sunday, March 11, 2018

HASTINGS, Neb. (AP) - Demands from both industry and future students are pushing Central Community College-Hastings to invest in a major expansion of two educational programs.

This summer ground will break on a 17,000-square-foot addition to the Hamilton Building after which the existing building will also be renovated.

The renovated space will house the welding program. The space will be about 15,000 square feet compared to the 7,000 square feet the program occupies now.

The addition will be home to the advanced manufacturing program, which also occupies about 7,000 square feet today, the Hastings Tribune reported.

The $10.3 million project is a major expansion for the college and something both campus president Bill Hitesman and dean of instruction Nathan Allen are excited to see come to fruition.

“There’s so much excitement for it,” Hitesman said. “It’s just been tremendous.”

Allen said the current facilities for both programs have worked for a number of years and are still OK, but the tight spaces don’t allow for the needed space and certainly won’t allow for population and program growth in the program.

“With what we have now, we’re in such a tight area, it would be better if things were spaced out,” Allen said. “Instructionally, we would function better even from what we have now.”

The original plan was to move the welding program to a different building on campus that would allow for expansion and then give advanced manufacturing the full 15,000 square feet.

Hitesman said the plan for the addition came after speaking with a group of local manufacturers about the plan. It was that group who suggested the addition that would keep the two programs together.

Both Hitesman and Allen said that meeting with manufacturers solidified their beliefs that improvements to these two programs were the right next step for the campus.

“They said that at that March meeting this is a project you really need to pursue, so not only internally were we saying, ‘We needed to do it’ but industry was saying, ‘We think you need to do it, as well,’” Allen said.

Taking into account the opinions of the manufacturers was important to both Allen and Hitesman considering the number of students who stay in the area.

Among the last graduating class college-wide, 100 percent stayed in Nebraska and about 86 percent stayed in the college’s 25-county coverage area.

“Those are pretty impressive numbers but that’s what we’re here for,” Hitesman said. “Hopefully, we can keep them here.”

Looking to the future, Hitesman and Allen are both looking at the increased excitement for career pathway programs at local high schools and especially Hastings Public Schools where 244 students are currently participating in the manufacturing pathway. That number includes students both at the middle and high school levels.

With the major increased interest on the middle school level, Hitesman said CCC will likely be working with Hastings High to get students brought over to the college as space allows serving those students.

The other idea they are considering is adding full programs in the evenings for those people who may want to earn a welding certificate but are unable to attend classes during the day.

“It’s certainly something we’re going to pull together and look at and address the things industry has asked us to look at which is those night classes,” Hitesman said. “We will certainly look at that and try to accommodate that.”

The hope is to break ground this summer and have the new addition open to students in fall 2019 with the remodeling in Hamilton completed by fall 2020. Fundraising for this project is in the early stages. A public campaign will likely be announced within the next few months.


Information from: Hastings Tribune, http://www.hastingstribune.com

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