Denham Springs — Groundbreaking on a new 20,000-square-foot Northshore Technical Community College in Walker could take place next spring, with the first students welcomed in summer or fall 2017, the school’s chancellor said Thursday.
Chancellor William Wainwright announced the tentative plans at a meeting of the Livingston Economic Development Council. Afterward, he said specific courses he would like to offer include nursing, welding, machining and industrial maintenance. The chancellor added that Northshore would try to offer customized classes for local companies who ask for specific training.
Northshore operates other campuses throughout the area, including sites in Hammond, Slidell and Covington.
The school has one last hurdle to jump before it can issue bonds and begin construction in Walker. The campus, expected to cost about $5 million, will be funded mostly by the state but requires a 12 percent match from local sources amounting to $600,000.
In November, the Livingston Parish School Board agreed to donate 12.3 acres near the Literacy and Technology Center for the site, which covered most of the local funding, but Wainwright still needs about $200,000 before the campus can move forward. Those funds could come from donations of cash, equipment or instructors.
The chancellor said the school is in talks with several potential donors but declined to discuss specifics. He told the LEDC he hopes to round up the last of the local funding by early summer.
Livingston Parish does not have a community or technical college, and the council has had its eye on one for years, President Randy Rogers said. In 2011, the LEDC began meeting with local companies to gauge their interest in a site in the parish.
“It was overwhelming. ... It couldn’t have been a louder ‘We need this,’ ” Rogers said.
Between industrial companies and incoming businesses, Livingston Parish has a particular market for certified welders and similar professionals, Rogers said.
“We need a lot of skilled workers in the metal trades,” he said.
The National Center for Higher Education Statistics performed its own study and agreed, also finding a high demand for training in health sciences, Wainwright has said.
In 2013, Louisiana lawmakers passed legislation providing state funding for the new Walker campus.
“It’ll be a huge benefit — an opportunity for our students to come straight out of high school, get educated and start working in Livingston Parish,” state Sen. Dale Erdey, R-Livingston, said Thursday after hearing Wainwright’s remarks.
The parish regularly sees its students strike out for Baton Rouge, Hammond or Greensburg to seek training. The new campus will let them receive an education in their own community, he continued. It also will provide a reliable workforce to the growing parish.
Wainwright said enrollment at the Walker campus could easily exceed 1,000 students, which will include area high schoolers who are expected to dual enroll with Northshore.
The parish school system has been in the process of expanding its own vocation offerings, and Wainwright said Northshore was working with the superintendent to coordinate their courses in science, technology, engineering and math.
The chancellor also said Northshore would continue to work with Southeastern Louisiana University, which jointly operates the Literacy and Technology Center with parish public schools. Northshore and SLU share a program in which students at the community college can join the university after earning 18 general education credits. Wainwright said the venture is useful to students who want to earn a four-year degree and enter jobs in sales or management or who want to open their own businesses.
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