WORKFORCE TRAINING CENTER TAKING SHAPE
From hospitality to health care, TCL excels at meeting the workforce needs of today’s employers. But business and industry is evolving, globally and locally. Preparing for tomorrow’s economy starts now.
As such, the college has plans underway for a 50,000-square-foot, state-of-the-art workforce training center to be built at its New River Campus in Bluffton.
The Arthur E. Brown Regional Workforce Training Center, named for longtime TCL advocate and commissioner of Hilton Head Island, will be the second building on the New River campus that spans Beaufort and Jasper counties. The new facility will dramatically increase TCL’s capacity by an estimated 850 students.
The center will house new and expanded programs and offer the latest technology and industry credentialing in construction, computers, business and entrepreneurship, logistics and more.
In addition, the center will feature fast-track workforce certifications from forklift operations to HVAC training that can be earned in a few months or less. Stackable offerings will help break longer programs into smaller chunks, which has many advantages.
“It allows both career changers and incumbent workers to gain new skills as their schedules allow without them having to put a hard stop on their current income,” Vice President for Advancement Mary Lee Carns said. “Plus, students are more likely to finish shorter classes.”
The center’s new programs also align with ongoing initiatives by local chambers of commerce and economic development organizations that are recruiting key sectors — aerospace and defense, light manufacturing and distribution, headquarter and back office, green and alternative energies, cybersecurity and more — to expand or locate here.
“These sectors have been strategically identified to fit well within the Lowcountry way of life while having the potential to offer higher wages and to create a more diversified local economy,” John O’Toole, Executive Director for the Beaufort County Economic Development Corporation, said.
The center’s program alignment will become an important part of the recruitment pitch to prospects, according to O’Toole.
“I will be able to say that we have a workforce that is trained and ready to go, which is such an important component of economic development,” O’Toole said.
The center’s course offerings also mirror the training needs of two other key workforce groups in the Lowcountry: military and small business.
Military members and veterans often turn to TCL to help translate their aviation electronics and aircraft maintenance service into industry-recognized credentials, which sets them up for future employment opportunities.
Business and entrepreneurship are becoming popular pathways for veterans as well. One recent study showed that veteran-owned businesses doubled in 2021 making up nearly 11% of new business owners in 2021 compared to 5.4% in 2019.
The Lowcountry economy relies on small business success, while entrepreneurship is one of the most popular career choices for younger generations. Data show that more than 60% of Generation Z have started or want to start their own business.
While the programs and classrooms have carefully been chosen, the plan also leaves room for flexible spaces and adaptable technology, Carns said.
Latest estimates show a three-to-four-year construction timeline and a price tag of around $26 million to cover construction and startup operations.
“We are optimistic that both local and state dollars will fund this project,” Carns said. “It’s really an investment that will pay for itself for generations to come.”
Gough agrees that the community at large will greatly benefit.
“Enhancing the college’s technology and diversifying our offerings will certainly have a positive impact on the Lowcountry’s workforce and on the region’s overall economic health,” Gough said.
- Size: Three-story, 50,000-square-feet
- Location: Second building on TCL’s New River Campus in Bluffton
- Capacity: 850 students
- Cost: $26 million construction and start-up operations
- Timeline: three-to-four-year approval and construction process
- Programs: Construction, computer technology, business and entrepreneurship, logistics and more