Avondale, AZ – Western Maricopa Education Center (West-MEC), in major partnership with Arizona Public Service Company (APS), Estrella Mountain Community College (EMCC) and the City of Buckeye, celebrated the Grand Opening of its new Southwest Campus with a ribbon cutting ceremony on Friday, March 4, 2016.
“As Buckeye continues to grow, we need to offer trained employees to our major bookend businesses such as Luke Air Force Base and APS, and in return offer high paying quality jobs back to our residents,” said Buckeye Mayor Jackie Meck. “West-MEC is an amazing move in the right direction to providing expert training and skilled workers. We are thrilled to have a facility like this in Buckeye.”
The campus’ location in Buckeye (Arizona’s largest city by land area) is well-positioned to accommodate the workforce development needs of lead industry partners, APS and its Palo Verde Nuclear Generating Station (PVNGS), and two of the West Valley’s leading educational and career development partners, West-MEC and EMCC.
“More and more jobs in the coming years will depend on science, technology, engineering and math skills. To ensure the success of our future workforce, we need to connect today’s young people to the jobs of tomorrow, and West-MEC is designed to do exactly that,” said Don Brandt, Chairman, President and CEO of APS. “We take great pride in joining other industry, education and community partners to create opportunities for Arizona students and unlock the potential in the energy workers of the future.”
The Southwest Campus is one of four projects for the career and technical public school district funded by a $74.9 million voter-approved bond in 2012. Phase I construction began in December 2014 and was completed in March 2016. Phase II construction began in January 2015 and will be completed in August 2016. General contractor McCarthy Building Companies led the project team including designers DLR Group in cooperation with Architechnology, and local subcontractors Pete King Drywall, StoneCold Masonry, Progressive Roofing & Metal Panels and Wholesale Floors.
The Southwest campus will serve its first cohort of students in the fall of 2016, launching inaugural programs in Energy and Industrial Technology, Information Technology (IT) & Cyber Security, General Construction, Medical Assisting, and Pharmacy Technician.
“The future of education is about providing the right opportunities for our communities,” said Gregory J. Donovan, Superintendent of West-MEC. “With the opening of this new facility, and these partnerships with EMCC and APS/Palo Verde, we are set to become the premiere standard of Career and Technical Education for the country.”
The genesis of this Southwest Campus was the curriculum and pathways developed several years ago in a unique partnership between West-MEC, APS, PVNGS and EMCC. The partnership addressed the critical energy workforce shortage caused by attrition and an aging workforce. EMCC responded by developing and offering academic pathways through the “Get Into Energy” program with industry certifications and degrees in Power Plant Technology.
The Southwest campus features a nearly 42,000-square-foot, two-story Sustainable Energy building, with electrical, mechanical, instrumentation & control labs; as well as an industry flow loop lab & shop. Curriculum taught in this building will prepare students for entry-level technician positions for the energy and manufacturing industries. It also allows students to earn up to 30 dual enrollment credits toward energy and manufacturing- related associate of applied science degrees offered at EMCC, one of the ten colleges in the Maricopa County Community College District (MCCCD).
Uniquely, EMCC/MCCCD will lease office space at the West-MEC Southwest Campus to offer high school students immediate access to post-secondary educational pathways. However, the campus is not just open to high school students, all community members will have access to EMCC enrollment, testing and basic campus services at the Buckeye facility.
“The Southwest Campus partnership is part of MCCCD’s commitment to helping young people obtain access to post-secondary education and attain credentials that are valuable in the workforce,” said Dr. Maria Harper-Marinick, Interim Chancellor of MCCCD. “We look forward to the expansion of our existing partnerships with West-MEC and APS, and are proud to be jointly serving the members of our West Valley communities."
The innovation and foresight that went into developing the programs was acknowledged by the Western Maricopa Coalition (WESTMARC) as the 2015 winner of the Best of the West Excellence in Innovation Award. Learning spaces for Phase II includes a more than 30,000-square-foot Industrial Technology building where WestMEC's Medical Assisting, Pharmacy Technician, General Construction and Information Technology & Cyber Security programs will be housed. Phase II, which is currently under construction and projected to open in the fall of 2016, also includes an expansive 126 KW solar canopy system and outdoor learning space.
Future phases of Southwest Campus will include buildings for STEM, veterinary assisting, auto/transportation programs, and cosmetology. The entire campus at build out will feature approximately 172,000 square feet of buildings and learning situated on a 17-acre campus.