WHITE CITY — Long-awaited elbow room is just around the corner at Rogue Community College's Table Rock Campus.
Adroit Construction of Ashland is poised to revamp an adjacent manufacturing building next door into a $4.2 million Technical Training Center. The 11,200-square-foot building on Pacific Avenue was acquired in December 2015 for $725,000 from Ted and Mary Warrick.
Once the makeover is complete this summer, the education space designed by Kistler + Small + White Architects will cover 15,583 square feet for the college's manufacturing and welding programs.
The existing shell is functional, but RCC President Cathy Kemper-Pelle promised both form and function once the eight-month makeover is completed. She told a gathering of community leaders the tech center will serve as a representation of the school's vision.
"We're all about transformational change at RCC," Kemper-Pelle said. "It's going to be both beautiful and functional when our architects and construction folks are done with it. It's going to be a state-of-the-art facility for the community and workforce of this area."
Skills-based learning in an environment that mimics the workplace helps students learn workplace expectations, Kemper-Pelle told the gathering before board members performed a ceremonial groundbreaking.
Along with classrooms and labs, RCC is creating makerspace, allowing students, staff, community and industry representatives to collaborate in meeting workplace challenges.
"Our strategy is to create 21st-century learners," Kemper-Pelle said. "They need to be able to innovate and solve problems."
She said its imperative is to train and connect students to the high-skill, high-wage jobs in this area. Welding is one area of demand.
Todd Giesbrecht, who leads RCC's Welding Department, said the project more than doubles workshop space to 3,200 square feet from 1,400 square feet.
"Right now we have very little project-based learning, because we don't do projects, we just do compulsory assignments," Giesbrecht said.
Lack of space has limited enrollment here and at RCC's Redwood Campus in Grants Pass to between 50 and 60 students per term.
"We could probably run 50 here alone, which will probably increase our enrollment by 30 percent," he said. "It allows flexibility, too. We can now look at someone taking one class for targeted training."
It also will provide more opportunities for welding students who work with the manufacturing, diesel and mechatronics classes.
"It allows us to incorporate all those spacial needs and provide for community education, something we don't do right now," Giesbrecht said.
RCC offers 12 welding classes at the moment and has close to 20 in its catalog.
"This will allow us to have more hourly offerings and expansion into other programs," he said. "Our long-term plan is a foundry for casting and a blacksmith shop working with ornamental iron."
Adroit will spend the rest of the month doing demolition work, including the removal of a concrete loading dock, before partitioning the open space and installing systems, CEO Tom Walker said.
"The building has great bones, the structure here is in really great shape," Walker said. "It's just a matter of converting the space into usable laboratory space, creating a welding area and creating different vo-tech spaces. HVAC, electrical and plumbing systems have to be updated. What they're going to be doing here requires a lot of power — you have machines, welding, cutting, a lot of power systems."
Adroit remodeled the former Tyco Electronics building that has served as RCC's vocational education quarters since 2004.
"Fourteen years later, we're coming back to do another job," Walker said.
Kemper-Pelle said completion is expected in time for fall classes in September. When the Health Professions building is built across the street, the campus will be a third larger.
Once departments are redeployed, class and shop space in the former Tyco building will be remodeled, creating more space for the mechatronics program.
— Reach reporter Greg Stiles at 541-776-4463 or email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/GregMTBusiness or www.facebook.com/greg.stiles.31.