Whether students are recent high school graduates taking the local, practical path to a four-year degree, urban-born co-eds seeking an affordable college experience away from home, or non-traditional adult learners working towards a better life for themselves and their families, Clinton Point Drive is a road to success.
There’s always something just a little bit inspiring about taking the steep and winding road toward Clinton Community College. A few wild bends along the way leave you literally wondering what’s around the corner. As you reach your destination atop the big Bluff Point hill, you find a place where the sun shines a little brighter and the lake gleams a little bluer. And for many, it’s a place of incredible promise and opportunity.
The imposing Moore Building, once a high-class and highfalutin hotel, anchors the campus while the Forrence and Stafford buildings, both 20th-century additions, and renovated cottages speckle the forested heights that overlook Lake Champlain and the Green Mountains to the east.
The newly constructed, yet-to-be-named Institute for Advanced Manufacturing (IAM) now adds a modern, state-of-the-art facility to the scenic and historic campus. Clinton Community College president Ray DiPasquale and IAM director Kris Renadette are hopeful for a generous benefactor (or several) to name the building after and, more importantly, an endowment to fund the facility’s operating budget for years to come.
Brand new to the region and to his leadership position at CCC, DiPasquale sees nothing but potential here and is eager to leverage some large-scale investments at CCC into partnerships with regional educators, business partners, and future investors. He said the $12.7 million SUNY 2020 grant, which funded the entire IAM project, a $6 million pledge from Clinton County with a state match of $6 million for improvements to the Moore Building, $1.5 million from the CCC Foundation for a new learning commons, and additional investments in the Stafford Center will bring nearly $30 million in capital improvements to the campus. “Then,” he said, “you look at the picture of investment in Plattsburgh, with new companies coming in. It’s all positive news.”
New York State’s aggressive economic development plan includes pushing the SUNY system to become an efficient engine of economic development itself. If a SUNY school isn’t on the cutting edge of technology, building physical structures and designing programs that enable industry and propel job creation by training the workforce of the future, that campus will become obsolete in a hurry.
In theory, Clinton Community College has been doing this for years, as IAM director Kris Renadette pointed out. “This is a new building, but advanced manufacturing isn’t new to us. It’s been embedded in our tech programs for years.” The Stafford Center at CCC currently houses five programs with over 100 enrolled students. With the announcement of the new Institute for Advanced Manufacturing, CCC’s technology enrollment is up 9 percent… and the new facility isn’t even open yet.
The 30,000 square foot building will open this fall. Designed and executed by AES Northeast and built by all local contractors, the building will serve as a regional hub for manufacturing education. It will house CCC’s existing technology programs, as well as provide flexible teaching and learning space. But as Garry Douglas, president of the North Country Chamber of Commerce, has said, “It’s more than just a building, it’s the physical core of a great movement.”
The philosophy behind CCC’s program is to support larger systematic economic growth throughout the region. The goal is to increase available programs offered at the college as well as its ability to leverage partnerships with several regional educational organizations, from K-12 programs to Clarkson University, along with other workforce development agencies and local manufacturers to help build a workforce pipeline that meets and exceeds demands—which are great.
For a long time there has been a false narrative in Clinton County that good jobs don’t exist. But Renadette knows better. A career fair at CCC in late March brought in 11 local manufacturing companies with more jobs than there were students to fill them. “It just shows lack of a workforce pipeline,” said Renadette. He said that pipeline is a mere drip right now, with the major disconnect being the skills gap between what employers need and what local labor can provide. DiPasquale, Renadette, and the IAM advisory board envision the new program will be the catalyst that helps create a steady stream in the workforce pipeline.
With increased focus on Made in America, programs like this one are working nationwide. In order to construct a building that would meet the demands of the current market and offer infinite flexibility, Renadette and a few colleagues gathered insight from similar facilities at Clarkson and Hudson Valley Community College, and they spent three days at the Gateway Technical College in Wisconsin, a model advanced manufacturing institute.
DiPasquale beamed with pride over the near complete IAM at CCC, giving a lot of credit to Renadette and the advisory board for their vision to build a facility “that looks and feels like the industry. It’s doesn’t look like a typical classroom, so the environment students will be in is going to be very familiar when they leave it to go to work.”
Another unique aspect of the program is the flexible learning environment it will offer. Because it is all skills-based train- ing and hands-on learning, Renadette has transitioned his programming to include just one hour of lecture time for every four hours of lab, and lectures can be completed anywhere, anytime. “It works for full or part time students or apprenticeship programs or corporate training. And it can help change our cost model because it streamlines and makes our resources more efficient by expanding the resources of our instructors to more individuals,” said Renadette.
This flex system will answer the accessibility issue for students with full-time jobs, families, and other personal commitments. “The lecture portion is streamlined online for basic information, and when you come into the lab the instructor can answer your questions one on one,” said Renadette.
He concluded, “This building is going to help build partnerships and streamline things for business and industry. There are a lot of organizations in our area that are doing amazing things, and hopefully this can help to pull some of those organizations together to make it easier for businesses.”