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Sept. 22, 2023

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Columbia Tech Center celebrates 10 years

Clark College satellite campus refocusing to offer more business classes, job training

By , Columbian Innovation Editor
5 Photos
Mechatronics instructor Larry Smith greets guests during a tour at Clark College's Columbia Tech Center campus Monday. The tour was part of the 10th anniversary celebration of the facility.
Mechatronics instructor Larry Smith greets guests during a tour at Clark College's Columbia Tech Center campus Monday. The tour was part of the 10th anniversary celebration of the facility. (Amanda Cowan/The Columbian) Photo Gallery

When the Clark College Columbia Tech Center opened in 2009, the college was seeing peak enrollment as layoff victims of the Great Recession went back to school to bolster their skills.

But now that the campus is a decade old and the economy has bounced back, the demand for classes has dropped.

Amid the 10-year anniversary of the college’s only satellite campus, the Columbia Tech Center campus is refocusing itself to be more business oriented by offering more business classes. It also moved a job-training program that links students with local businesses to its campus.

In September the campus began offering every business class for an associate business degree, even if the class doesn’t draw many students, Adnan Hamideh, division chair of the business administration department, said Monday.

“We’re committed to offering all business classes no matter how many enroll,” he said.

The idea is to prevent students on the east side of Vancouver from having to drive to both campuses, he said.

Hamideh is also preparing to create an office administration for a business degree path, he said. The school already offers accounting, marketing, management and business administration. About 7,000 full-time students take business classes at Clark College as a whole, he said.

The Columbia Tech Center is also the new home of the Economic and Community Development Center program, which trains over 6,000 students in professional development.

Last month, the program moved its business classes from a leased space in downtown Vancouver to the Columbia Tech Center, said Kevin Witte, vice president of the program. The move was an effort to cut costs, but it also moved students closer to some of the city’s larger employers, including WaferTech.

Witte said participating employers include Boeing Co, and they request specific skills for students to learn, which the college incorporates into its training.

“We have some very advanced business and technology classes for folks looking to increase their workforce learning,” he said.

Columbia Tech Center also houses the mechatronics technology program, the Mature Learning program — which offers classes for cooking and other skills — and Running Start, classes for high school students looking to earn college credits before graduating.

The mechatronics classes give students hands-on experience with robotic arms and other modern technology. Instructors hold them in a room at the tech center campus with gears, robotics and control boards.

Robert Schimel, 47, enrolled in the mechatronics program at Clark after his job at an internet service provider was outsourced overseas.

He’s now learning how to manipulate motors, pumps and controllers, and he hopes to soon work in the semiconductor industry and own his own business.

“It’s a perfect fit,” he said.

Clark College is also working on building a second satellite campus in Ridgefield at Boschma Farms. The project has seed money and is waiting for state legislators to grant money, said Kelly Love, spokeswoman for Clark College.

Construction for the first Boschma Farms building could be as soon as next year, according to a website for the project.