PITTSBURG, Kan. (AP) — Plans for a centralized technical education center in southeast Kansas are closer to reality, thanks to a $1 million gift from the Bicknell Foundation.
The proposed center will house several technical education courses currently offered to high school students and adults by Fort Scott Community College in cooperation with the five school districts in Crawford County. The $1 million gift, announced this week, will help to buy a building and 18 acres, as well as providing room for expanded programs, The Joplin Globe reported.
The programs include vocational education offerings such as construction, masonry, welding, culinary arts and other trades. High school students and non-traditional students earn certification and skills for employment. A timeline for development will be set after backers of the project raise another $300,000.
Pittsburg Area Chamber of Commerce Director Blake Benson said the gift could be the most critical piece of the region’s economic future.
“We’re at a point now where with our growth, we’ve outstripped our labor supply,” Benson said. “With unemployment fluctuating between 4 and 5 percent, we’re essentially at full employment. Our local businesses are having to go elsewhere to find skilled employees. That’s not ideal for the businesses, or those that may be looking for work that don’t have the right skills for the jobs available.”
The WEA includes representatives from Fort Scott Community College, Pittsburg State University, the school districts, businesses and industry, Crawford County and the City of Pittsburg.
The group has agreed to use a building owned by Vinylplex in the Pittsburg Industrial Park to house the center. The building and 18 acres is expected to cost about $890,000 with expansion and additional parking costing another $400,000, Benson said.
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