The doors are now open at Wake Tech’s new Beltline Education Center, which expands space for the college and career readiness programs and holds the community college’s first advanced manufacturing center.
After outgrowing the former adult education center on Capital Boulevard, Wake Tech renovated and opened the new center at 3200 Bush St. in less than a year.
“It was the fastest turnaround I have ever had in 42 years,” said college President Stephen Scott as he welcomed guests to the center’s open house Tuesday.
Last summer, the 80,000-square-foot facility was a warehouse that manufactured uniforms for servicemen. By January, it was transformed into 43 classrooms, and the college and career readiness classes began.
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Those include adult high school, English as a second language, high school equivalency preparation, and transitional opportunities for post-secondary success for those with intellectual disabilities.
The advanced manufacturing center is just getting off the ground now.
“It is brand new for the college,” said Monica Gemperlein, associate vice president of open enrollment programs. “That’s one of the pieces we are really excited about, because we haven’t had a location to do that in before. It’s a collaboration between Wake Tech and the business community.”
The 3,000-square-foot comprehensive manufacturing center offers hands-on training in three areas: machining, automation and circuit technology.
Jay Reaves, instructor for business and industry services, demonstrated 3-D printing, which is part of the machining course.
Operating and monitoring machines is more complex with advancing technology, Reaves said. To operate a 3-D printer, a worker must program the model into the machine. This requires training in 3-D computer-aided design systems.
The printer takes a biodegradable plastic and heats it to a toothpaste consistency and slowly forms the programmed model, which then sets and hardens at room temperature, Reaves said. The printer creates usable plastic parts or prototypes for bigger projects.
Over in the automation lab, students will learn to work with programmable logic controllers as well as hydraulic, pneumatic, mechanical and electrical equipment.
“There is no better way to troubleshoot than to build it, take it apart, put it back together and make it work,” said William Terrill, director of industry training.
While a number of the manufacturing skills were taught in some form through Wake Tech at the old facility or on site at businesses, the new center allows for more students to learn in a designated space.
The new center serves up to 900 students at any one time, and Wake Tech already has 600 students registered for the morning courses, Gemperlein said Tuesday.
The center also houses a school of cosmetology, which is a non-degree, fast-tracked program for those looking to enter the workforce quickly or just learn a new skill, like natural hair care. Although the program bypasses the typical associate arts degree in cosmetology offered at the Wake Tech main campus, it still requires the completion of the required program hours and state testing to receive certification.
The Beltline Education Center’s main focus is to put people into the workforce and help them advance their careers.
“We are excited to have partnerships and collaborations that help the students move from jobs to careers that lead to family-sustaining wages,” Gemperlein said.