Raritan Valley Community College’s Bridgewater Campus was always envisioned as a temporary home. In 2010, RVCC rented the building that makes up Bridgewater Campus from Somerset County, and since then, it has been used to run their Workforce Development Program. Their plan for a permanent home for the program will and has to happen; but when that is depends on the delivery of bonds coming from the State of New Jersey.
RVCC’s proposed new home for the Workforce Development Program, a building currently called the Workforce Training Center (WFTC), will replace the Bridgewater Campus and will be built across from Lot 2 on their main campus, located in Branchburg. The WFTC will have larger space, longer hours of operation and a more flexible design to adjust to changing labor trends than the Bridgewater Campus.
Ground breaking and a completion date have not been decided yet. RVCC is still waiting for an $8 million bond promised to them from the state of New Jersey before they put the WFTC out for bid. The funding source of the bond is the Higher Education Facilities Trust Fund.
RVCC hopes to get additional funding from Somerset and Hunterdon County to pay for the rest of the cost. John Trojan, RVCC’s Vice President of Finance, hopes to have the WFTC open for business by Fall 2016, and the final cost to be about 9 to $9.5 million.
While RVCC is waiting for the bonds, the school hired SSP Architectural Group to do design work on the WFTC. SSP has previously worked on RVCC’s West Building, and on the expansions of the school’s testing center, admissions office, library and Arts Building’s roof. Currently, the building is designed to be around 39,000 sq ft, which is about the size of the West Building, and be expandable from behind.
RVCC will do more design work after the school determines which Workforce Development Programs will provide the most jobs and require the most space. RVCC is using research from the New Jersey Department of Labor and Workforce Development and the Heldrich Center to make that decision. They are also evaluating how the 10 week “Fabricated Metal Product/Computer Numerical Control Manufacturing” program performed as part of their research. This program was located in the Advanced Manufacturing Mobile Learning Lab trailer next to the Arts Building during the summer.
According to Trojan, the WFTC’s Cosmetology Student Salon will look like a medium to high-end commercial salon, and will have more stations than the Bridgewater Campus. The salon will also be open all year round and offer more services to the public than the Bridgewater salon.
Trojan said of other programs, “In auto technology, the way the programs will be crafted and presented will be as good or better as you can get in a trade school…And one program we can’t to start is advanced manufacturing.”
RVCC has not decided if the WFTC will be placed on the retention pond across from Lot 2, or next to it, where there is currently a pile of dirt conserved from the school’s major construction projects. The school hopes to use this dirt on a federal construction project west on Route 78. If they are unable to, they will fill the retention pond with it.
The large space in the building will allow more programs to be served and for classes to start more frequently, not just in early September and late January. The building will be completely pre-engineered, which Trojan hopes to be the cheapest and most efficient construction method available. If changing labor trends require the building to be expanded, a pre-engineered construction method has the ability to do so typically within six months.
Currently, the WFTC is planned to be completely wireless, have an on onsite counselor and one computer lab. The classrooms are planned to have desks with wheels, for the purpose of arranging seats according to different needs of different lessons. There will be 40 parking spots around the building, with the expectation that students will park in Lot 3.
Trojan said workforce programs in community colleges are much more advanced in the South and Midwest. Only in the last 5 to 10 years have more programs opened in the East. “I think it’s a good investment because there is a high demand for these jobs,” he said. “As the regular college type programs begin to decline, because of a decline in high school graduation rates, this is something we need to get into. The model that we’re advocating is competency based. You’ve got to demonstrate success so that one, you don’t waste your time, and two so that we build on our reputation and that the industry wants our graduates.”
According to the document Work Force Training Center Business Plan Executive Summary, the WFTC “represents a significant strategic direction and investment at just the right time…career programs developed through a “just-in-time” delivery system have the potential to do much more in job creation than traditional degree programs…(i.e. 15-week semesters and 60 credit hour degrees).”The section "forecasted results" in the document states that the WFTC “will attract students beyond a normal recruiting profile (college-ready) and likely from a wider geographic are.”
According to Trojan, RVCC might still run corporate and continuing education programs at the Bridgewater Campus, but workforce programs will no longer be offered there. “Brining all the students to the main campus will allow them to participate in campus life. They’ll have access to the student center, all the clubs and it will be a much better program support than we can ever deliver at Bridgewater.”