Tassell MTEC Center Slowed In Opening For Business

May 8, 2002
| By Katy Rent |
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GRAND RAPIDS — Thanks to delays in site preparation, construction continues this month on the new Grand Rapids campus of the Michigan Technical Education Center (M-TEC).

Originally the facility was scheduled to open this spring, but cleaning the building's polluted brownfield site took much longer than anticipated.

When it finally opens in August, the center will be one of several for which the State of Michigan has committed financing.

The Center, which will bear the name of lead donor Leslie E. Tassell, will be a local version of the M-TEC Center in West Olive and will offer similar programs, classes and work opportunities designed to suit local demands.

More than 250 people came together with Grand Rapids Community College (GRCC) on Nov. 1, 2000 to break ground for the facility, which is located on an 11-acre piece of land donated by MichCon. The construction site at the corner of Godfrey and Rumsey streets in southwest Grand Rapids is a brownfield redevelopment zone, and GRCC, MichCon and the Department of Environmental Quality worked together on the clean-up plan.

GRCC received grants from the state to build two facilities, one in Ottawa County, which opened in autumn of 2000, and the new center opening this summer.

"This was a $10.9 million construction project, with $3 million coming from the state, and $6 million raised in local donations, with Mr. Tassell being the lead donor," said George Waite, director of the M-TEC.

The new center will offer training in manufacturing and production, automobile repair and building trades.

The Center will also exist to deliver training programs for high-wage, high-skill, high-demand occupations to help increase the numbers of Michigan skilled workers in these fields.

"We approach it as having three different technology centers in the area, the Applied Technology Center at GRCC, the M-TEC in Ottawa County and the new M-TEC here," Waite said. "They are all similar in focus and fostering work force development, but they all have a different group of students it serves, catering to the unique needs of the area."

Last week at the local Governor's Conference, Lt. Gov. Dick Posthumus stressed the center's importance to career development.

"Before, we weren't worried about training our work force, we were just trying to create jobs so we could then train our work force," Posthumus said.

"With the development of the new M-TEC Center here in Grand Rapids and elsewhere in the state, I believe we are really taking notice to the importance of training our work force — and we are getting something done."

While keeping in mind how important work force development is, he indicated that M-TEC also understands the many demands students have.

The center offers three flexible variations of enrollment: open entry/open exit instruction, traditional courses and distance learning. These three options are all designed to afford the flexibility students need in completing educational courses and training.

M-TEC's open entry/open exit system allows students and employers to select the actual skills that match the needs of both.

At the Tassell center, students will have the chance to complete programs and training in automotive technology, construction technology and manufacturing technology. These courses may be completed on three different levels: competency-based, self-paced and self-directed, or taught with instructors who serve as resources to assist students in learning.

"We want to keep the programs we offer very open," said Waite.

"Therefore we offer many apprenticeship programs as well as classroom settings. The center will be comprised of 16 classrooms, with the majority of the space being dedicated to labs. We want to foster a real hands-on learning atmosphere. That is important because when you have your brakes fixed you don't care that your mechanic got a B in class, but how well he can actually perform the service, and that is what will be taught here."

The center advises that it offers material through a variety of mediums from ordinary texts to CD-ROM materials and small-group projects.

The center breaks each traditional college course into various skill sets, thus enabling students to customize their own training.

Gaining these skills will generate college credit toward a certificate, an apprenticeship, or an associate's degree. Center officials advise that because open entry/open exit classes are self-paced and self-directed, students can begin course work at any time, literally enrolling as late as Thursday to begin classes the following week.

For each class, a student executes a learning agreement, which outlines the course requirements and time necessary to complete the class. When a student completes a module, he or she can sign up for the next module scheduled in the program.

Staff will be brought from the community college's current training center on Leonard and Ball, which will be closed to compensate for the opening of the new M-TEC.

"We aren't going to be hiring any additional staff currently, but we anticipate growth in the next few years and are prepared for that," said Waite. The facility that is closing will provide 20-25 full and part-time staff for the M-TEC.

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