The Grant County Skills Center is a step closer to becoming a reality after the state Legislature allocated $19.41 million for the project.

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The Grant County Skills Center is a step closer to becoming a reality after the state Legislature allocated $19.41 million for the project.

The 43,120 square feet facility, to be located on an approximately 8.5 acre site owned by the Moses Lake School District on Yonezawa Boulevard, will serve eight Grant County school districts: Moses Lake, Quincy, Wilson Creek, Ephrata, Warden, Coulee-Hartline, Grand Coulee Dam and Royal, as well as the Othello School District in Adams County. Each school district will be allocated a certain number of spots for students at the skills center based on their full time equivalent student counts.

The initial programs offered at the skills center will be advanced construction, manufacturing technology, advanced culinary, dental hygiene, pre-health care, and robotics/engineering, according to Christine Armstrong, director of vocational programs for the Moses Lake School District.

Now that the money has been allocated, the school district needs about 60 days to update the design of the skills center to comply with building codes, said Moses Lake School District Superintendent Michelle Price.

After the design is updated, the school district will accept bids for construction of the center. Price expects the money allocated for the project to be available in June, she said.

Construction on the project may begin in September, said Price. It should take 12 to 14 months to construct the facility. It may be open by January 2014, she said.

The facility will be staffed with a combination of certified teachers and industry professionals. While the state allocation pays for construction of the facility, the operational costs are paid for through student apportionment, said Price.

Skills center classes have different requirements than vocational classes, said Price. Most of the high school’s vocational classes are prerequisites to skills center classes, which may allow students to earn industry certifications.

State law is designed so students can attend their own school district full time and attend a skills center to acquire hands-on skills in an industrial trade, said Price.

“It’s not to take away from their local school district opportunity, but to grow opportunities for the kids,” she said.

Moses Lake High School currently offers students six skills center courses through Wenatchee Valley Technical Skills Center: TV and video production, cosmetology, advanced automotive technology, construction, culinary and manufacturing technology. Some programs will move to the new skills center while others, such as cosmetology, will continue to be taught in their current venues, said Armstrong.

The school district has a 10-year plan for the facility, at which point the district plans to seek additional funding from the Legislature to fund four additional programs and add on to the facility, said Price.

“This project has been one of the top priorities for Grant County, and Grant County’s employers are looking for well-trained talent that these skills centers produce,” she stated. Sen.Janéa Holmquist Newbry, R-Moses Lake, who helped secure state funding for several local projects, said the skills center will help train the next generation of workers.

“This is a great opportunity for the youth in the Columbia Basin,” said Price. “And we’re looking forward to the business partnerships that include apprenticeships, internships and tapping the expertise of community members and businesses.”