Southeast Community College is planning a pair of new facilities dedicated to training students to enter careers in science and technology.
A proposed $42.7 million tower focused on technology education will also serve as a hub for businesses that want to “re-skill or up-skill” their existing workforce, the college said.
The project will be paid for through a combination of SCC’s capital improvement fund, facility use fees and private donations, according to Bev Cummins, director of the Lincoln campus.
SCC already has about $8 million in funds pledged to the project, including $5 million from Sandhills Global of Lincoln.
The Sandhills Global Technology Center is expected to help SCC address the state’s growing workforce needs in science, technology, engineering and math-related fields, which are expected to grow by 11% between 2018 and 2028, according to the Nebraska Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Non-STEM fields, meanwhile, are anticipated to grow by 5% across the state over the same period.
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In the Lincoln area, the growth in STEM careers is projected to outpace the state, increasing by 11.6% compared with 5.9% for non-STEM fields, the Bureau of Labor report states.
With demand surging for a trained workforce, SCC said its teaching spaces for science and technology classes “no longer meet the pedagogical needs” of instructors and students.
“In general, most of the rooms are too small for the class sizes desired by the institution,” a report submitted to the SCC board states. “Instructional equipment and technology required is also insufficient. Many spaces cannot support the anticipated and necessary growth in science and technology offerings.”
For example, science labs within the main building at 8800 O St. were last overhauled in the late 1990s, while the computer information technology program is housed in a 35-year-old space without room for students to train in cybersecurity, network management or computer support.
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SCC has also been limited in its ability to expand its electronic systems technology program because of cramped space and can’t offer space for area businesses looking for areas to train new or existing employees.
Several Lincoln companies — TMCO, Kawasaki and Sandhills, to name a few — often request space in SCC’s facilities, Cummins said.
“Because our labs are used throughout the day in our credit programs, trainings for industry can only occur in the evenings or when the college is on break,” she said.
Even then, SCC’s existing facilities often show their age.
Matt Thorne, executive vice president of Electronic Contracting, which employs 130 people, including 65 in Lincoln, said the commercial electronics integrator will often look for space where it can conduct certification classes or large sales meetings.
Electronic Contracting — also known as ECCO — has made use of the auditorium at SCC’s Lincoln campus, but found itself scrambling when there was no HDMI connection, Thorne said.
A new, dedicated training space at SCC that can accompany a large number of employees would be a big boon to both ECCO and other companies, he added, particularly as many anticipate workloads to shift into high gear once supply-chain bottlenecks are resolved.
“Once we get the raw goods in our hands, we’re going to be scrambling to find workers as quick as we can to get everything installed,” Thorne said. “We’re not going to have time to worry about finding a time and a place to train workers, so I’m really excited about these spaces they are creating that we will be able to use.”
According to Cummins, the new facility would have labs that are flexible and dedicated to “short-term, work-based training,” which will increase SCC’s capacity to produce a qualified workforce.
The Sandhills Global Technology Center, which is planned east of the Health Science Facility that opened on SCC’s Lincoln campus in 2021, would be followed by a science-focused facility to be built within five years.
The projects continue the renewal of SCC’s campuses in Lincoln, Beatrice and Milford.
A $24 million expansion and renovation of SCC’s student services center is under construction at the Lincoln campus.
SCC-Lincoln is also planning a 250-bed residence hall.