The Southwest Washington Flexible Training (SWFT) Center, a 12,000-square-foot building that will house various industrial trades training courses, is currently under construction and is expected to open for the upcoming winter quarter.
Centralia College Foundation executive director Christine Fossett said that Centralia College and the foundation recognized a need within the community for more technical training and said the SWFT center will fill that need.
“A number of years ago our board members were talking with the college about the next steps and one of the things they heard a lot through local industry and local businesses is the need for qualified trained employees — often in the industrial trades,” Fossett said.
She said that one of the difficulties the college was facing was having a location and the physical space to conduct the training.
The flexibility of the space can be utilized to facilitate whatever type of training is most needed — whether it is carpenters, millwrights, EMTs, forklift operators or something else that a local business tells the college they need.
“The reality is — whether it’s the auto mechanics, the plumbers, the electricians, the millwrights — those are some of the best paying jobs in Lewis County and we don’t have a direct training program that addresses any of those at the college,” said Jake Fay, the dean of instruction at Centralia College.
After submitting a proposal, Centralia College received a TransAlta Coal Transition grant for $1.3 million for the building of the Southwest Washington Flexible Training Center.
Fay said that the college is exploring ways to partner with K-12 schools so that high school students can utilize the SWFT Center as well. He said that having high school students come to the SWFT Center for a half-day would help students understand more of the career options available to them after graduation.
“We are in the process of putting together a mobile training lab to take around Lewis County to rural schools. The college has purchased a semi-truck and trailer that we can put equipment simulators on and help get students interested in those industrial trade occupations,” said Fay.
Fay said that the customized training for specific industries held in the SWFT Center is going to help to keep more employees in the area.
“In my opinion, there is a lot of high-skill, high-wage jobs in both healthcare and industrial trades. We want to get kids to start thinking about what kinds of jobs exist and what jobs exist locally,” said Fay.
The SWFT Center will have three classrooms that can be multi-use and will house the Commercial Driver’s License simulator and the Forestry Simulator. One of the three classrooms will be used for healthcare courses, such as EMT and CPR training. There will also be a large concrete-floored space in the back of the building that will be big enough to house large pieces of specialized equipment for various courses.
The SWFT center is located at the corner of Pear Street and King Street near Washington Hall on the Centralia College campus.
“The contractors are doing their best with all of the COVID restrictions but they have indicated that we are on track to open and start instruction for the winter quarter which will be early January,” said Fossett.
Fossett said that there will be meetings in the coming months to determine, which courses are most needed within the community.
“Employers were saying that they had specific training needs that weren’t being met and so they had to send their employees out of the area. We were hearing that often enough that the college decided that they wanted to fill that gap and the (Centralia College) Foundation board agreed,” she said.