KLAMATH FALLS — Across two days, Klamath Community College celebrated its latest campus addition with the public at open house events in recognition of the recently completed KCC Apprenticeship Center.
A VIP tour for funders and project developers on Friday, May 5 served as a formal grand opening, completing a multi-year effort of fundraising and construction for the structure. The following day, the public was welcomed to tour the facility as part of an open house event.
Funded through grants and donations, the $11.5 million debt-free facility is the new home of numerous trade skill and apprenticeship programs. Programs already underway include manufacturing-related apprenticeship programs such as welding, carpentry, cement mason, drywall, electrical, interior/exterior specialist, millwright, painter, and plumbing, fire and emergency response, criminal justice and law enforcement, commercial truck driving, and heavy equipment training programs. Additional programs to utilize the facility are also in development, such as the planned 2024 launch of a well drilling specialist program.
The center is expected to serve as a hub of workforce training, a key to regional growth and infrastructure development for the Klamath Basin and beyond as demand continues to grow for skilled labor – particularly in construction.
Friday’s formal opening included speeches by multiple key figures in the project’s completion, and recognition of many who contributed. A formal group countdown culminated with flying confetti as KCC Board of Education Chair Kenneth DeCrans, Klamath County Commissioner Derrick DeGroot, KCC Foundation Chair Steve Tippin, and Foundation Committee co-chair Jean Pinniger were given the honors to press the button officially opening the structure.
Dr. Roberto Gutierrez, KCC president and one of the longest-tenured higher education administrators in Oregon, emphasized to a crowd on Friday the importance of hands-on learning experiences for both adult apprenticeship and trade skill programs as well as pre-apprenticeship high school programs that have partnered with KCC.
“One of the benefits of longevity with a president is that they can not only set the vision but see the outcome,” said Gutierrez. “This has taken many years, but now I get to see the outcome – that is priceless to me. What we are doing here is an indication that common people in this part of Oregon can achieve uncommon and extraordinary results.”
Planning for the KCC Apprenticeship Center began nearly seven years ago, with construction for the project completed on budget and on time. It features a variable-use open floor space, dedicated welding and manufacturing labs, modern equipment, ample room for fire trucks and an ambulance, classrooms, a student study area with computer access, instructor office space, and in the training yard – a four-story fire tower. It also houses a pristinely restored antique 1949 fire truck on display at the main entrance.
Current workforce projections indicate that over the next 10 years there will be a need to fill more than 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.
“This community has given well over a million dollars for this project, and all who contributed are a part of this building,” said Pinniger. “I believe this building will be one of the keys to Klamath Falls to stabilize and grow our economy.”
The Apprenticeship Center marks the first permanent home for many of its trade skill programs, which previously had to share space or operate offsite. Until recently, the KCC welding program was hosted at Oregon Tech’s campus, while much of the firefighter training took place at Klamath County Fire District 1 stations.
“It’s great knowing my co-workers will go through these apprenticeship programs and that we are going to have the best quality apprentices in the state,” said DeCrans. “I am happy to see that our programs will finally have a real home.”
Apprenticeship programs typically span four years – a partnership between KCC and regional businesses to train employees working toward state certification in a number of construction and contracting fields.
“Building a community is a team sport,” added DeGroot. “The progress we have made (in Klamath County) is astounding, and it takes leadership like what we are seeing at KCC to get that done.”
For more information about KCC apprenticeship and trade skill programs visit http://www.klamathcc.edu.