LEWISTON, Idaho – In what was described as a monumental moment for students, the Lewis-Clark Valley, the region, and the state of Idaho, Lewis-Clark State College officially opened its Schweitzer Career & Technical Education Center on Friday.
With several dignitaries in attendance, including Idaho Gov. Brad Little, the college held a ribbon cutting ceremony to celebrate the completion of the CTE center, located in the Lewiston Orchards, in front of a coronavirus protocol-compliant crowd of around 200.
LC State President Cynthia Pemberton drew some laughs when she commented the college has its own way of doing things, which is why the ceremony featured a chain and bolt cutters more fitting for a CTE Center, instead of the tradition ribbon and scissors.
The $27 million 86,000-square foot facility will serve the needs of both students and industry in the region when it officially opens for the 2021 spring semester on Jan. 19. It will be the new home for seven Technical & Industrial Division programs.
Friday was a time to celebrate the partnership between LC State, Lewiston High School and the community. Lewiston’s new high school and its A. Neil DeAtley Career Technical Center opened this fall and is located a block away from the Schweitzer CTE Center. The CTE center at LHS is a regional center that is expected to attract students throughout north central Idaho. With LC’s center located in the same proximity, it will provide a natural pipeline for students to earn a degree or certificate after high school. Those students then become attractive potential employees for area industries.
“This is a field of dreams being created from these former wheat fields,” Little said during the ceremony. “This will help grow opportunities for Idaho students. It’s been my goal since I became your governor to make sure our children and grandchildren have every opportunity to remain in Idaho and for those who left to return back. The vision and collaboration to build the Schweitzer CTE Center is a blue print for creating pipelines in regions and communities all across Idaho. This is a model we want to replicate.”
In 2017, the Idaho Legislature approved the CTE building project and appropriated $10 million with the requirement that LC State match the funds. In 2020, the Legislature, through the Permanent Building Fund, appropriated another $2.5 million after construction bids came in higher than anticipated. Schweitzer Engineering Laboratories donated $2 million to the project, while SEL founder Edmund O. Schweitzer, III, and his wife Beatriz donated another $1 million as did the J.A. and Kathyrn Albertson Family Foundation. In all, donations have helped generate just under $7.5 million towards the CTE center. Construction on the Schweitzer CTE Center began on April 19, 2019.
Former LC State president J. Anthony (Tony) Fernandez was one of the guest speakers during Friday’s ceremony and discussed how he worked with Lewiston School Superintendent Bob Donaldson to get the ball rolling on the project. To get the community involved, one of Fernandez’s first phone calls was to the Schweitzers. Both Edmund and Beatriz spoke Friday about the importance of being able to get a good education and job without having to move away. They said they saw the importance of such a facility and quickly partnered with the college, which included providing a faculty member for the industrial electronics technology program.
Other speakers on Friday included State Board of Education President Debbie Critchfield, who stressed the LC State-Lewiston collaboration should be followed elsewhere, and Idaho Division of Career & Technical Education Administrator Clay Long, an LC State alum, who praised the project as being a huge benefit to the state.
The seven programs that will be housed at the center include auto mechanics technology, CNC machining technology, information technology, engineering technology, industrial electronics technology, industrial maintenance and millwright technology, and heating, ventilation, air conditioning, and refrigeration (HVAC-R) technology.
Following the ceremony, guided tours of the building were conducted.