LEWISTON - The squeak of shoes on the shiny floor echoed throughout the building as students made their way to classes. A few students relaxed in chairs in various quiet areas, while a couple of others were making a mad dash from the parking lot trying not to be late.
All in all, it looked like a typical first day of the semester at the Lewis-Clark State College Schweitzer Career & Technical Education Center. The day, however, was anything but typical.
Tuesday’s start of the Spring 2021 semester marked the first day of classes in the new $27 million, 86,000-square foot Schweitzer CTE Center. The three-story building is the new home of seven Technical & Industrial Division programs.
“All classes are running at full speed,” LC Dean for Career & Technical Education Jeff Ober said. “It’s a great thing to see.”
By 8:00am Tuesday, classes were being held on all three floors, while workers were still busy putting together chairs for meeting spaces and moving more equipment into areas.
“As with any move, you are going to find we need an extension cord here or a light bulb there,” Ober said. “But everything really has gone really well.”
The CTE Center, located in the Lewiston Orchards adjacent to the new Lewiston High School, allows LC State to serve the needs of both students and industry in the region. The inside of the building was designed with many things exposed on purpose, such as the ductwork, computer cables and wiring, so it can be used as a living textbook, allowing students to both see how things operate and how to work on them.
The Center also gives each program more space, which allows for increased student capacity to help with growing industry demands.
That extra space was evident in the Program/Troubleshooting Programmable Logic Controller (PLC) class in the Industrial Electronics Technology program taught by David Irish. Along with having new equipment, the new classroom has double the space of the previous class, which the students agreed makes a big difference. They said it gives them more room to get their work done and work on different projects.
Irish says the Center will help the college continue to produce highly sought-after graduates. Many students in his class already have jobs with Schweitzer Engineering, ATK CCI/Spear, and Howell Munitions & Technology. Irish says that likely will lead to a full-time job with those companies when this group of students graduates in May.
On the second floor, students in professor Jack Hutson’s Aided Machine Drafting class in Engineering Technology were already at work on computers using AutoCAD software for drawings, including three dimensional. The bigger classroom also will allow for greater student capacity.
While some classes were adjusting to their new digs, other classes took students on tours of the whole building so they could see the layout and new equipment in various departments.
“This is really pretty cool,” said Sam Jones, a sophomore majoring in information technology. “I like how everything is out in the open so you can see it and work on it. I had heard about it, but until you see it, it’s hard to imagine just how different it is.”
In 2017, the Idaho Legislature approved the CTE building project and appropriated $10 million with the requirement that LC State match the funds. In 2020, the Legislature, through the Permanent Building Fund, appropriated another $2.5 million after construction bids came in higher than anticipated. Schweitzer Engineering Laboratories donated $2 million to the project, while SEL founder Edmund O. Schweitzer, III, and his wife Beatriz donated another $1 million as did the J.A. and Kathyrn Albertson Family Foundation. In all, donations have helped generate just over $7.6 million towards the CTE center.
Construction on the Schweitzer CTE Center began on April 19, 2019.
The seven programs housed at the center include auto mechanics technology, CNC machining technology, information technology, engineering technology, industrial electronics technology, industrial maintenance and millwright technology, and heating, ventilation, air conditioning, and refrigeration (HVAC-R) technology.
To donate toward the CTE Center, learn more about naming opportunities, or become an individual or corporate sponsor for the Schweitzer CTE Center visit www.lcsc.edu/giving, or call the LC State Foundation Office at 208-792-2458.