Bucks County Community College planning new $14M workforce training building
By Chris English
Bucks County Courier Times
The Bucks County Center for Economic & Workforce Development at the college’s Gene & Marlene Epstein campus in Bristol Township would have space for training programs, offices for some county agencies and conference and meeting rooms.
A new $14 million building planned for Bucks County Community College’s Gene & Marlene Epstein campus in Bristol Township will enhance and expand the college’s jobs training programs and help fill the “skills gap” for local and regional manufacturers and businesses, according to college and county officials.
Speaking during a brief ceremony on the campus Wednesday, officials said the 35,000-square-foot, two-story building would have office space for county agencies related to workforce and economic development, and also meeting and conference rooms where area business leaders and college and government officials can meet to talk about workforce needs and programs. Its official name will be the Bucks County Center for Economic & Workforce Development.
The college has been conducting metalworks, industrial maintenance and gas pipeline mechanic training programs at four different locations and has so far provided 200 skilled workers to those industries, BCCC officials said.
The new building will allow for more programs and more people to be trained, though specifics won’t be known until the process is further along, BCCC President Stephanie Shanblatt said. It will also allow the college to consolidate most of those programs at one location, BCCC officials had previously said.
Shanblatt and Jules Dingle, the Philadelphia architect who is designing the building, said they hoped to break ground sometime in the fall of 2019. The structure would then take 12 to 18 months to build, Dingle estimated.
The new building will be paid for with 50 percent state, 25 percent county and 25 percent federal funds, Shanblatt said. That funding has been committed and there should be no snags, she added.
There will be 3,000 unfilled manufacturing jobs in Bucks County and 2 million nationwide by 2025, information provided at Wednesday’s gathering said.
“There are 7.1 million unfilled jobs in the country, so we’ve gone from an economy that asked ‘Where are the jobs?’ to one that is asking ‘Where are the workers?’” said U.S. Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick, R-8, of Middletown. “That’s why workforce development programs are so important, and I praise this institution (BCCC) for being on the cutting edge of that. When people have jobs, it trickles down into a lot of other good things. They are less prone to abuse drugs, commit crimes and other things.”
The new training building will be constructed on a vacant grassy area between the main college building on the Bristol Township campus and Veterans Highway (Route 413). The location just off Interstate 95 is ideal, Bucks County Commissioners Chairman Robert Loughery said.
Housing multiple workforce and economic development functions in one building is “innovative and pioneering and something that doesn’t exist in the region,” he said. “This will allow us to gather together with our businesses and give us an opportunity to help our businesses thrive and grow.”
In addition to thousands of square feet to conduct training programs and conference and meeting rooms, the new center will also house parts of the county planning commission and Industrial Development Authority, and all of its Workforce Development Board and PA CareerLink program.
“It will tell the public and businesses we are readily approachable and accessible and receptive to their needs,” county Industrial Development Authority Chairwoman Mary Smithson said. “It will integrate education and business to meet the needs of employers.”
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