The Southeast Community College Board of Governors wants to build a standalone welding facility at its Lincoln campus.
On Tuesday, the board unanimously approved a program statement for an 80,000-square-foot welding technology center to be built at the 8800 O St. campus.
The $43.5 million facility would be paid for through the college’s property tax levy, according to the program statement, which now goes to the Coordinating Commission for Postsecondary Education for review and approval in July. The commission must approve the project since it relies on tax funding.
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics has identified welding as one of the fastest-growing job areas in America, with Southeast Nebraska being deemed a “hot spot” in local demand for skilled welders. SCC serves 15 area counties.
More than 140 welding jobs need filled on an annual basis in the region, with growth in the industry expected to increase by 7% by the end of the decade, according to the labor department.
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The classroom and labs within the current welding facility, located inside SCC’s hulking Main Building, are used more than 230 hours each week during the semester, but do not allow for students to get the kind of hands-on experience needed to set them up for success in the workforce, the college said.
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“Analysis of the learning spaces within the welding technology program demonstrated undersized, crowded labs that were unsafe for students and faculty,” the program statement says.
SCC’s welding program has room for 84 welding booths for all levels of learners but cannot expand to accommodate increased enrollment as students seek high-paying welding jobs in Nebraska.
The limited space also doesn’t facilitate partnering with companies for training opportunities, testing and other events, SCC said.
According to the program statement, in addition to allowing SCC to expand to 184 welding booths to accommodate learners of various skill levels, moving the welding program into a standalone facility would address several safety concerns that exist in the current space.
SCC would improve fire safety by removing an ignition source, as well as alleviate overcrowding caused by an influx of students and new equipment used to teach to industry standards, the college said.
The existing welding facility would be repurposed into an expanded gymnasium, esports arena and athletic training center, which would be paid for through existing funds.
It would also create room to move SCC’s offices currently located at 301 S. 68th St., and further the college’s plans to divest from that property, according to the proposal approved by the board.
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