Dakota County Technical College is in the business of creating a skilled work force. The school fills a gap that puts people to work in careers that are booming.
But it's hard to continue doing that when the facilities it uses are out of date.
The school hasn't had an update to its transportation careers and technical careers program areas since 1973, the same year the Vietnam War ended.
School administrators say the areas are outdated, poorly ventilated and technologically insufficient. DCTC has requested funding from the state to renovate the large area and everybody on campus has their fingers crossed that this will be the year the legislature approves it.
This is the eighth year DCTC has requested to be part of the bonding bill.
At a glance the renovations would include 118,000 square feet of classroom, lab and shop space used by the transportation and emerging technologies program. DCTC's bonding request includes $7.23 million in 2012 and another $6.9 million in 2014.
The renovation will impact science, technology, engineering and mathematics programs, also known as STEM. Those fields are predicted to outgrow traditional jobs in numbers and salary levels in the next decade.
"It's huge. This just really needs to happen," said DCTC President Dr. Ron Thomas.
In addition to providing a better educational environment, the improvements would eliminate more than $3.5 million in deferred maintenance projects and would reduce the school's energy consumption by 20 to 30 percent.
Last week the House Capital Investment Committee did not recommend the project for funding. However on Wednesday morning the Senate Capital Investment Committee included the funding in its bonding bill. Thomas said Gov. Mark Dayton has expressed support for the project.
In a letter to the Governor asking for continued support, Thomas called the project a modest and necessary renovation of the school's existing facility.
Thomas said students graduating from these programs land some of the best jobs in the state. But the longer the school has to wait for the renovations the higher the risk the school will become outdated and irrelevant, said Thomas.
Students and staff have shown great resolve and patience with DCTC but Thomas said at some point that will change.
DCTC instructor Tim McClusky said many students in transportation careers programs come from high schools with fully modern labs and shops, and the dealerships and companies that hire DCTC graduates operate state-of-the-art facilities.
"We are the key element in the middle -- and we are out of step," McCluskey said. "As the trainers of tomorrow's workforce, we know that doesn't make sense.
"Our curriculums are custom-designed to match the workforce requirements of companies that need our graduates, companies like General Motors, Caterpillar and Peterbilt," he said. "But without essential renovations, our facilities will continue to grow more outmoded, undersized and inefficient with every passing year."
Other STEM programs at DCTC face similar problems. Thomas said he knows legislators are dealing with difficult decisions but that the funding is crucial for DCTC.
DCTC last received bonding funds in 2005 to renovate the school's library and west end.
Thomas said he is holding out hope their project will be pushed through.
For more information visit DCTC's website at www.dctc.edu.