It’s been a year since Northland Pioneer College (NPC) broke ground for the new Skills Center at the White Mountain Campus in Show Low. As I helped turn those first few shovels, it was hard to imagine the size and scope of the building and its potential impact on the community.
Today, it is easier to imagine the future as the building continues to rapidly take shape on the corner of 8th Avenue and Whipple Street. In the late spring and early summer, crews finished pouring concrete for the foundation. In more recent months, the project has gone vertical, with exterior walls getting added to sections of the building and some interior work starting.
When complete, the new Skills Center Building will be 28,200 square feet with up to 200 students using the center each day. This facility will allow us to bring the automotive, welding, and energy and industrial technology (EIT) programs onto the White Mountain Campus (WMC) from their currently off-site rented facilities. The Skills Center will allow students to access the latest tools and technologies while providing the much-needed expanded space. In addition, students will have easier access to campus services such as advising and financial aid.
Considerable care was taken throughout the building and site planning process to ensure that it does not dominate the landscape or disrupt the neighborhood and flow of traffic. Drop-off points for buses, pedestrian walkways, and drainage areas have all been carefully designed. When finished, the building will be beautiful on the outside, and a community amenity that we can all be proud of as we enter the west end of Show Low.
Student and employer demand for the programs housed in the new Skill Center is at an all-time high. As I sat in the audience at the spring 2022 Welding Completer Ceremonies, I was impressed to hear about how many of our students already had jobs at graduation. I was proud of our programs as the keynote speaker, a local employer, commented that NPC students are among the best trained in the state. The demand and quality programming are also evident in our automotive and EIT programs. This new facility will help keep our students up to date on the latest technologies, including renewable energy and hybrid and electric vehicles. As our area adjusts to the possible closure or transition of power plants in our region, the EIT program will fill a critical role in preparing the workforce for whatever is next. Many of the skills taught in EIT are applicable in many different types of energy generation from coal to nuclear, and those same skills are used throughout manufacturing.
Two primary types of students will use the Skills Center. A large percentage of our programs are filled with area high school students who enter the program through the Northern Arizona Vocational Institute of Technology (NAVIT) and the high schools NAVIT partners with. Students who are beyond high school age enter the program through our admission office and can get more information by contacting one of our advisors at https://www.npc.edu/advising. Whichever way students enter the program, they enjoy hands-on learning with a highly qualified staff who will teach them skills and prepare them for the job market. I have been told that NPC welding and automotive students are the best in the state, and our results from competitions like Skills USA back up that claim. This new facility will reflect the high quality of faculty and students already in those programs.