Idaho’s newest community college is raising money in hopes of breaking ground next year on a building to support as many as 1,000 career technical education (CTE) students.
The College of Eastern Idaho (CEI), based in Idaho Falls, has raised more than $16 million toward the $40 million it expects to need to build Future Tech, its planned 88,000-square-foot building intended to support careers in cybersecurity, energy and agricultural technology. Groundbreaking is planned for May or June 2022, with the building scheduled to open for students in the fall of 2024.
The need for the building
CEI needs the building to help train workers for more than 3,000 jobs in the burgeoning tech sector, particularly in eastern Idaho, the home of Idaho National Laboratory (INL).
Future Tech will be able to train about 1,000 students, half of whom will be in noncredit workforce training and half of whom will be working toward associate of arts in applied science degrees with industry certification, said Ann Marie Peters, CEI’s director of strategic partnerships.
“Right now, we don’t have the space to expand these programs,” she said.
“This is a project I feel has significant possibilities to impact the poverty equation in Idaho,” Peters added, noting that CEI hasn’t had a new building in 14 years. “Through education and training, particularly in CTE, we really have the ability to launch our students into family-wage careers. This will take a lot of them from minimum wage jobs, and multiple minimum wage jobs, to $27 to $30 an hour with benefits. That’s the kind of impact that, for me, is important enough to make sure the building gets done.”
Plans for the building
The design team is made up of Lombard Conrad Architects and Opsis Architecture. Local engineering firm Northwind Group is part of the project team. Anderson Construction was selected as the construction manager general contractor.
In consultation with stakeholders — as well as by visiting other similar buildings such as Montana State University’s Norm Asbjornsen Hall, North Idaho College’s Parker Technical Education Center and the College of Western Idaho’s Nampa Campus Micron Education Center — planned features for the building include an “innovation alley” for campus inventors, equipped with 3D printers and sewing machines; reservable study facilities on second-story “bridges” over the hallways; a supercomputer donated by INL and a giant stairway that can be used as a student hangout space in addition to getting students between floors. “Our observation as we were visiting is that they are a very popular place for students to gather,” Peters said, noting that the new junior high building in Idaho Falls also has one.
In an attempt to provide more resources to the community, the building is also expected to include a 5,000-square-foot conference center that could hold up to 320 people, or be divided into three individual rooms.
The major plan for the building was to make it adaptable, Peters said. “Every single space has two purposes,” she said. The building could also be expanded, she added.
Now comes the hard part: Finding the money to build it.
In addition to a number of private donations, thus far, CEI has received funding from the J. R. Simplot Foundation and the Economic Development Association, a federal organization that falls under the Department of Commerce and the state of Idaho, Peters said.
“We directed $3 million to the College of Eastern Idaho’s Future Tech building because continued investments in education and workforce development are necessary to ensure our workforce is ready now and in the future,” said Gov. Brad Little in an email message. “By investing in career technical education, we are investing in our workforce and Idaho businesses. Eastern Idaho is a corridor for research in technology and energy, and this latest investment is a welcome step in our state’s path to prosperity.”
And what about traditional Idaho business educational philanthropists, such as Micron? “Stay tuned,” Peters said.