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New CCTC nearly complete

Posted: December 21, 2017 5:05 p.m.
Updated: December 22, 2017 1:00 a.m.
Martin L. Cahn/C-I

C-I WEB EXTRA: Hundreds of computers, monitors and other equipment arrived on Monday and were in the process of being inventoried and installed during the tour of the new CCTC building. CCTC President Michael Mikota said computers will be a part of every classroom for virtually every course of study offered by the college.

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There was still a lot of work going on Monday -- and more work to be done during the coming weeks -- but Central Carolina Technical College’s (CCTC) new home in Kershaw County, across from where construction of the new Applied Technology Education Campus (ATEC) is underway, will be ready for classes to begin Jan. 16.

Several members of Kershaw County Council and the county’s Public Facilities Corporation, which is the entity governing the public funds used to build the new facility, and others got their first look inside the building during a special tour. CCTC President Michael Mikota and Nancy Reading, the school’s program manager for Kershaw County, led the tour of what Kershaw County Administrator Vic Carpenter called one of the biggest projects in the county’s history.

“It’s taken less than a year, coming in under budget and on time,” Carpenter said ahead of the tour.

Council Chairman Julian Burns promised a “bigger celebration” when time comes for a formal ribbon cutting and classes begin.

“It’s all about a trained and ready workforce,” Burns said, and then reminisced a little. “When I first lived here, Kershaw County was all about cotton fields and DuPont. It’s not like that anymore.”

Those gathered for the tour met first in the campus’ original CCTC/Economic Development building. Like its smaller sibling, the new CCTC building will house both the college and the Kershaw County Economic Development office and will include incubator space -- an area inside the building devoted to helping new companies sprout their wings.

In fact, the 3,000-square-foot incubator space was the tour’s first stop.

“I’m most excited about this,” County Economic Development Director Peggy McLean said. “We have a roll-up door so they can bring in their equipment and train employees. We already have two dates scheduled in January.”

The incubator space boasts pull-out walls to section off smaller spaces and a “flex office.”

“This will be very valuable for our industrial community,” McLean said, adding that industries wishing to use the space for training will not be charged for its use; a plan is still being formulated for how start-ups will be charged.

McLean’s and Marketing/Administrative Manager Lauren Reeder’s offices were next on the list. McLean said their offices and lobby are being designed to make sure they provide a good first impression. The office sports a larger conference room than what McLean and Reeder currently have, which will be used for industrial council meetings. In addition, McLean said INVISTA provided the carpeting, while GE (formerly Haier) donated a refrigerator.

McLean then handed things over to Mikota to continue the tour in the much larger CCTC portion of the new building. He pointed out large classroom spaces and the fact that technology will play a large part in each one.

“This is the future of higher education,” Mikota said. “I can’t imagine what we’ll have in 2030, but we’re committed to leading students into the future.”

He said most, if not all, classrooms will have computers in them and that the college plans to bring mechantronics and engineering graphics to CCTC by Fall 2018. Mikota said CCTC gauges supply and demand in the marketplace -- as well as student interest -- to determine what courses to offer.

For instance, CCTC currently offers a cybersecurity course of study. Currently, five or six students are enrolled and it is offered exclusively online. Meanwhile, space for mechatronics is already being developed, with four classrooms to be devoted to the program.

Mikota estimated the Kershaw County campus will have 500 students enrolled when classes begin in January.

“We’re looking at doubling that over time and we need the space to expand,” Mikota said, adding the larger classroom sizes should be able to do that, but the school may expand yet again at some point. “We expect to expand, especially with ATEC loading up and other growth. We have to think about the next 15 to 20 years.”

As the tour came to the college’s computer lab space and testing rooms, Mikota and CCTC Kershaw County Program Manager Nancy Reading said Kershaw County is tied with Sumter County with 97 students in its S.C. Scholars program where students earning a 2.0 grade point average can attend CCTC tuition free.

Burns said he met with a family after the recent Boykin Christmas Parade who he said was living “in poverty.”

“They have a daughter who is taking advantage of that program and will be the first in the family to go beyond a high school education,” Burns said.

Inside a medical biology lab classroom, Mikota said CCTC doesn’t gauge its success by pure enrollment, but by how many students successfully enter the workforce.

“Ninety-one percent of our students are placed in their field of study,” he said, adding in response to a question that the school does track how its graduates are doing.

The tour made its way around to CCTC’s front entrance on the west side of the building. There, Reading said she and Mikota hope the space will be seen as a meeting place for students.

“We hope this will be an area with a lot of traffic, including for student organizations. We want students to get the whole college experience,” she said.

Mikota said he is looking forward to how easy it will be for students who wish to take a different educational path to do so on the new joint campus. Not only will it be easier for ATEC students to walk across campus to take dual-enrollment courses, but many CCTC students who complete their associate’s degrees will be able to enroll at the University of South Carolina as juniors.

Mikota even said there is a possibility that, in the future, students may be able to complete their degree programs on the CCTC campus rather than having to go elsewhere.

Students attending CCTC will have a library and study rooms to use, both of which sport “whiteboard” tables that can be written on and then erased. The library will be more electronic than physical -- thereby opening it up as another meeting space -- utilizing an interlibrary loan program with schools across the country.

“The new faculty and staff are passionate and excited about the new facility,” Mikota said as the tour drew to a close. “We can have a great facility, but we need the best faculty and staff.”

Ahead of classes starting Jan. 16, 200 Kershaw County 8th Graders will visit the new building on Jan. 5 for a “manufacturing expo.”

“It’s a chance to get them in the pipeline,” McLean said. “It will show them they don’t have to go through a four-year program and still have a very rewarding life.”

A grand opening and ribbon cutting will take place at 9:30 a.m. Jan. 18, two days after classes start. The event will feature more tours and the school will host a CCTC commissioners meeting that day.

McLean said there will also be a “discovery day” for Kershaw County students on March 23; the public will be invited to a similar event that evening.

Dennis Stuber, who is part of the Kershaw County Public Facilities Corporation, said he was impressed with the tour and the facility.

“This is a big asset for industry and business,” he said.

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