On Wednesday, Oct. 5, SCTCC celebrated the groundbreaking of its Advanced Manufacturing Training Lab, which is slated to be completed in 2023.
The lab’s groundbreaking brought together community members, business and industry partners, Minnesota State Chancellor Devinder Malhotra, US Senator Tina Smith, and of course the students, faculty, and staff of SCTCC.
“This is a gamechanger—this really is going to make an impact. This allows us to renovate and expand almost 8,000 square feet of additional space for our advanced manufacturing programs,” said Interim Pres. Kloos. “It allows us to increase capacity from 24 to 48 students…That’s a big deal for us, to double the capacity, and get that many more students out into the field working.”
After Electrolux in St. Cloud closed in 2018, there were concerns about the economic impact in the area. Conversations among SCTCC, the City of St. Cloud’s Economic Development Authority, GSDC, the Chamber of Commerce, Career Solutions, DEED, and St. Cloud State University resulted in SCTCC applying for the US Dept. of Commerce’s EDA grant to expand the manufacturing portion of the College.
St. Cloud Mayor Dave Kleis applauded the group of community partners that were at the initial meeting to move this project forward. “That collaborative effort: it’s something that makes this community livable. We work together and get things done and we achieve a lot together. We work together to make this community better.”
Sen. Tina Smith was also present during the initial meetings in the region and community partners to see what investments could be made so St. Cloud remained an economic hub and driver in the state.
“This is exactly what we should be doing. This is about investing in our workforce, which is empowering people and empowering communities. It is about creating a pathway for people to find fulfilling work that is what they want to do what they love and also sustain their families, and that sustains their community,” said Sen. Smith at the groundbreaking. “This lab is going to directly support the incredible entrepreneurial businesses in this community that are crying out for the talent they need to be able to grow and continue to contribute.”
One of the drivers of the updated lab is to provide training on updated equipment. Keeping up to date with equipment needs and the changing technology in the manufacturing field was one of the confirmed needs from an industry and workforce analysis. The updated space and equipment will also allow for SCTCC to double the capacity of students. Not only will the lab be available for students new to the manufacturing industry, but it will be an option for those currently in the workforce who need updated training through SCTCC’s Customized Training.
Some of the new technology included with the lab include rooftop solar panels and a metal 3D printer. About 4,100 square feet will be renovated and 3,500 square feet added to the College. One of the spaces renovated will include a maker lab with a wall of windows facing a hallway so students and visitors to campus can see what the manufacturing industry is all about.
Awareness of the manufacturing field is key. Katie Frank, SCTCC graduate with three degrees from the Energy and Electronic program, learned about the College from her experience in VEX Robotics in high school. While her experience in high school as the only girl in a lot of her STEAM classes wasn’t ideal, she shared that that all changed when she got to SCTCC. She’s currently employed by SCTCC as the VEX Robotics Coordinator and uses her position to spread awareness of manufacturing, especially to women and BIPOC communities.
“I am excited to see all the possibilities this Advanced Manufacturing Lab opens up,” she said.
Chancellor Malhotra stressed the importance of working with area industry in not just creating spaces like the new lab in the Minnesota State institutions, but also involving business and industry in creating curriculum and making sure graduates have the education they need when entering the workforce.
“This partnership with business and industry has become transformative,” said Chancellor Malhotra. “They are active partners with us in developing facilities and programming which will ultimately produce the needed leaders, talent, and workforce that Minnesota needs.”
At the groundbreaking, the gathered group heading to the space that will be additional space in a year’s time, picked up golden shovels, and dug into the dirt to mark the start of construction. Students were invited to take a turn at the groundbreaking—they, and the St. Cloud region, will be the ultimate beneficiaries of the new Advanced Manufacturing Training Lab. Interim President Kloos shared this sentiment with the group: “We can share that these are high-demand fields with excellent job placement and livable wages that provide a sustainable lifestyle for our gradates to live, work, and raise families in our St. Cloud region.”