KLAMATH FALLS — The construction site of Klamath Community College’s Apprenticeship Center served as a backdrop for the kickoff of a community capital campaign organized by the KCC Foundation, featuring speeches by community leaders and donors Friday, April 29.
KCC’s community campaign goal is to raise $300,000 through local contributions – both small and large – by Aug. 30, to go toward equipment, student supplies, and construction costs.
The KCC Apprenticeship Center, slated to open by January 2023, will be the site for trades and manufacturing related apprenticeship programs, construction skills, fire and emergency response, criminal justice and law enforcement, commercial truck driving and heavy equipment training programs. The center is expected to serve as a central hub of workforce training, a key to regional economic growth and infrastructure development.
The project, budgeted in 2019 at $7.8 million, has increased to $11.5 million, due to supply shortages, inflation and other factors. The $2.6 million needed to complete the project will come through grants and donations.
Friday’s capital campaign launch began with a luncheon, and two check presentations. Oregon State Rep. E. Werner Reschke presented $300,000 via Klamath County Economic Development Association (KCEDA). Additionally, a $100,000 donation was made by Joe and Craig Young for the Young family, in honor of the late Jim Pinniger .
“KCC is a critical asset to our community, and these selected projects align well with KCEDA’s long-term vision for enhancing the region’s economic vitality,” said Randy Cox, KCEDA director. “The funds we were able to share with KCC will enhance their state-of-the-art apprenticeship facilities, which will continue to put Klamath County on the map for education and economic opportunities.”
For Joe Young, former CEO president of Hewlett- Packard, the development of the Apprenticeship Center hits close to home. His family moved to Klamath Falls in the 1930s, where he started his career as an apprentice in the trades as an electrical apprentice.
“We are glad to be able to be part of this, my dad was an electrician here for years, and I was an apprentice, so this is a very personal day for me,” said Young.
At the construction site, KCC Foundation Director Chip Massie welcomed visitors and provided context for the day while construction continued behind him.
“The Apprenticeship Center project really started over four years ago with a dream and a feasibility study,” announced Massie. “We have raised nearly $9 million for this project. We need to raise $2.6 million more to complete the project, our goal is to do that over the next five months. We have been in the quiet period, now it’s time to get loud.”
Featured speakers included KCC President Dr. Roberto Gutierrez, KCC Foundation member Jean Pinniger, KCC Board Chair Kenneth DeCrans, current electrical apprenticeship student Sierra Alekseyev, Joe Young, Klamath County Commissioner Derrick DeGroot, and Rep. Reschke.
Dr. Gutierrez highlighted the importance of applying lessons from the past while moving forward with positive change. He cited the Winston Churchill quote, “Those that fail to learn from history are doomed to repeat it.”
Recalling Klamath County’s once dismal graduation rates, he listed the importance of tangible changes in poverty rates and general perceptions of the area directly tied to improvements in educational opportunities.
Current workforce projections indicate that over the next 10 years there will be a need to fill 2,400 construction and manufacturing-related positions in the East Cascades region alone. During the same time frame, the number jumps to 21,800 jobs needed across Oregon. Emergency services sector jobs are projected to need 1,400 in the East Cascades and 19,200 across Oregon over the next decade.
“There are companies that want to come here, but we have a tremendous shortage of housing,” Pinniger explained.
“The answer to that is to have a big building force, which is exactly what this Apprenticeship Center will do. In 10 years, there will be 1,800 jobs developed here, these people will be trained and certified here on this campus.” Pinniger emphasized that if community members in the coming weeks get a letter or a knock at the door asking for donations for the Apprenticeship Center they should do their part for the community by welcoming them with open arms, and open wallets.
“For years people have asked me what is Klamath’s biggest challenge, and my answer has changed over and over,” said DeGroot. “We have started to accomplish some really great things over the last five years. Today Klamath is in a much different place than it was five years ago. We keep thinking bigger about what we can accomplish, and that’s what this project means to me. Today our biggest challenge is housing and workforce.”
The KCC Apprenticeship Center is on track to open by January.
Video of the Apprenticeship Center event is available at the KCC YouTube channel. For more information, or to donate toward the KCC Apprenticeship Center, email the KCC Foundation at firstname.lastname@example.org, call 541- 880-2234, or visit www.klamathcc.edu/foundation.