SCLTC can recruit students who local employers will eventually hire

Published 12:15 am Wednesday, February 8, 2017

RESERVE — When the idea was first presented to him by a former administrator at Central Louisiana Technical College, Director Earl Meador just smiled politely.

Cindy Poskey’s dream was a big new building at the Reserve campus, with bigger classrooms equipped with modern technology.

Such a building would give the decades-old original campus space for more student training and, eventually, more graduates ready to enter the local work force.

“I just kind of smiled and said, ‘That would be a nice Christmas present,’” Meador said while reminiscing this week. “It really was sort of a pipe dream, and over the years it became real with the support of the business community and industry. A lot of pieces came together.”

College Director Earl Meador stands in the lobby of SCLTC’s new Reserve building.

College Director Earl Meador stands in the lobby of SCLTC’s new Reserve building.

That dream became a reality when the Center for Excellent Advancement of Technical Education — CATE for short — officially opened in January.

There still are a few finishing touches to be put on the 26,000 square foot building that was constructed next door to the old campus, but Meador says it is “99 percent finished.”

It is most welcomed too, said Dean Penny Freeman.

“We were running out of space at the old building,” Freeman said. “This gave us an opportunity to expand other programs that were seriously running out of space.”

The project became a reality in part thanks to a $1.2 million grant from the U.S. Department of Commerce and a land donation from St. John the Baptist Parish.

The new space, which includes eight classrooms, a media center and student and faculty lounges, allows the college to up its enrollment to a projected 1,300 in the fall. There currently are 794 students enrolled.

“We really are so sure about the 1,300 in the fall because the stars are all starting to align,” Meador said.

That is in large part due to the new construction.

A new 4,000 square foot welding center breaks ground this summer and will include indoor and outdoor booths.

The expansion of the process technology department to the new building allows for much-needed improvements to the current building, Meador said. That includes renovations to bathrooms and an overhaul of the air conditioning system.

“The other building was old,” Meador said. “As we tried to provide that quality facility that students want to come to, because if you put them in a run down building where the roof leaks, it’s going to be hard to get them to come to that. This starts to set the standard high for what they expect, and it starts to recruit those types of students, which allows the employers to recruit those types of students. It all kind of goes together.”

Student Blake Stromeyer, above, relaxes in the college’s new student lounge, part of an expansion, which is a dream come true for Dean Penny Freeman.

Student Blake Stromeyer, above, relaxes in the college’s new student lounge, part of an expansion, which is a dream come true for Dean Penny Freeman.

Student Blake Stromeyer of Ponchatoula recently enjoyed a break between classes in the new student lounge, complete with tables and vending machines.

“It exceeded all my expectations,” he said. “I love it.”

Freeman said this is probably the most exciting thing she has seen in her two years as Dean.

“Everything is so bright, and there are windows,” she gushed. “Our enrollment continues to rise, and our programs continue to be strong. Industry partnerships are really, really multiplying. Just in the last year we’ve picked up probably four or five new industries that have entered into partnerships with us. They serve on advisory councils, they offer scholarships, they offer internships to the students, they teach. They tell us what we need to teach our students.”

Built in the 1970s, the Reserve campus is the largest of the five Louisiana workforce training colleges, which offer training in air conditioning and refrigeration, business administration, industrial instrumentation technology, maintenance technology, medical assistant, patient care, practical nursing, process technology and welding. The college aims to train local residents for employment at local businesses.

“I’ve seen the opportunities continue to grow and I’ve seen the community start to see the vision of how this campus and this college can really partner with this community,” Meador said.

“It’s a two-way vision. When we began to talk to the parish about the land we needed to put this on, the discussions were real about it being an investment in the parish and not just a place for us to put pretty building. It was really about how to get St. John the Baptist Parish residents involved in what we do here and bring them from unemployment to being a part of these businesses that are in the parish. It really is the vision of a lot of people.”