Clark County Skills Center plans to add a new building

It would house aviation, cosmetology programs, if legislators OK $7.15M

By Gordon Oliver, Columbian business editor

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The Clark County Skills Center is preparing to add a new building to its campus to house both its cosmetology program and a new program to train students for jobs in the aviation industry, in anticipation of $7.15 million in state construction dollars.

State funding is not yet certain, since the Washington Legislature adjourned without approving a capital budget that includes the allocation for the skills center building. But the center has completed design work and recently applied for development approval from the city of Vancouver.

If the Legislature approves funding at its upcoming special session, the center would launch construction this fall in order to have the building ready for the start of classes in September 2014, said Dennis Kampe, the Skills Center's executive director.

The building, at 3004 N.E. 124th St., would contain 15,700 square feet for the cosmetology school and 8,100 feet of space for a new aviation program. The cosmetology program would be consolidated from off-campus and inadequate locations, Kampe said. The addition of a new building would allow other shifts within existing buildings, improving facilities for other Skills Center programs, he said.

Skills Center programs are targeted to train workers in fields where there is local demand for workers. About 70 students are enrolled in the cosmetology program, and a high percentage of graduates have found work in salons and related fields, Kampe said.

The planned aviation offering is in response to expected growth statewide and locally in aviation industry employment. The program would be designed to complement and coordinate with existing programs at Portland Community College and the private Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University near Portland International Airport, Kampe said. He expects an enrollment of about 60 students.

The Clark County Skills Center, now in its 30th year, is open to high school juniors and seniors from nine local school districts and from ESD 112. It is within the Evergreen school district, which is the center's lead partner.

The new building would be a significant expansion for the center, which now is housed in four buildings. The center began with about 54,000 square feet of classroom and training space. The addition of the Firstenburg Technology Center in 2003 increased that space to about 75,000 square feet, Kampe said.

The center enrolls just over 1,000 students in all of its programs. Those students divide their time between their local high schools and the skills center, and many earn college credits for their training at the center, Kampe said. About 40 percent of students go on to continuing education, with the largest percentage advancing to Clark College, Kampe said.

There's a 30-day period to submit public comment to the city of Vancouver on the center's proposed new building. Comments on the project must be received before 4 p.m. June 6. Comments can be directed to Patti McEllrath, associate planner, patti.mcellrath@cityofvancouver.us or Community & Economic Development Dept., P.O. Box 1995, Vancouver, WA 98668.