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WNCC tech center ready to open

by Christina Nelson

Western Nevada Community College will open two new technology centers, available to Douglas students, at the Carson City Campus this fall.

“We always believed that we would do it, and we did. Look at it,” said Helaine Jesse, dean of institutional advancement at WNCC, pointing to the new Donald W. Reynolds Center for Technology at the north end of the Carson City campus.

The Reynolds Center, also called the Trade and Industry Center, will bring automotive, machine tool and welding technology, as well as other programs in the future, to the college.

Another new building – the High Tech Center – is located at Carson High School.

It will offer three new programs: geographic information systems, graphic design and computer network degrees.

Though not all of the programs offered at the centers will be available this fall, programs will be phased in each year.

Construction began last year on the $3.5 million Reynolds Center after receiving a $2.5 million grant in 1997 from the Reynolds Foundation, an organization which provides grants to civic, charitable, cultural, educational and health organizations in Nevada, Oklahoma and Arkansas.

“Now two years later it’s done. It’s pretty amazing,” Jesse said.

The Reynolds Center’s computers are equipped with a geographical information system, computer design and graphics programs and a computer-aided design program.

Jesse is a veteran fund-raiser. She spent four years working with a committee to raise money needed to open the Douglas campus. Now she must raise another $158,000, the interest of which will be used to keep equipment in the Reynolds Center up-to-date.

“This is the first totally privately-funded building in the college,” Jesse said.

The 13 classrooms in the Reynolds Center include a lecture hall, a construction technology lab, an electronics lab, a computer- aided design lab and a distance learning classroom. Thirteen faculty offices are placed throughout the building.

Each lab in the center is equipped with 20 computers.

“They’re better machines than the college has ever had,” said Bob Berry, director of computing services.

The lecture hall is equipped with Internet access jacks at each seat where students can hook up lap-top computers during class.

Construction technology, a new program at WNCC, will be offered this fall. Though construction used to be something that people could enter without formal education, Jesse said the industry is looking for more trained workers as technology in the industry advances.

A 2-year degree – with emphasis on estimating, facility management, project management and trade-specific supervision – aims to put more skilled workers in the construction field.

“We did a survey several years ago and it was obvious that the school needed to address this segment of the industry,” Jesse said.

At a recent event held in the construction technology lab in the Reynolds center, builders attended and were delighted at the new facility. Jesse said they spent most of the night checking out the equipment.

“You have a lot of manufacturers clamoring for skilled workers,” Jesse said.

Ray Tomalas, president of the Douglas County Building Industry Association, said there is a “big-time shortage” of skilled workers in the trade industry.

“I’m just so happy that someone is doing this,” he said. “I would love to find young men and women who want to learn the trade.”

“The average age of a construction worker is 45 years old. If they don’t get younger people in the industry, they’re sunk,” Jesse said.

At 59 percent, construction is the largest goods producing industry in Nevada, according to the State of Nevada Research and Analysis Bureau.

The High Tech Center is a joint program with Carson High School. The high school uses the facility until 1 p.m. and the college uses it after.

“Most of our classes will be offered between 5:30 and 11 (p.m.). We have a large percentage of our students who are working,” said Jerry Barbee, dean of applied sciences and technology.

Barbee, who helped create the curriculum for the new technology programs, said that many of the college’s current programs were enhanced because of the new centers.