By early next year, Pima Community College students will start learning advanced manufacturing skills in a spacious new building rapidly taking shape at Pima’s Downtown Campus at Speedway and Stone Avenue.
The new three-story, $35 million Advanced Manufacturing building is the biggest component of Pima’s evolving Center of Excellence in Applied Technology, which also includes the Automotive Technology and Innovation Center, which opened to students last summer, and the Science and Technology building, which will undergo a major renovation next year.
Greg Wilson, dean of applied technology at Pima, said the center of excellence at the Downtown campus is an effort to support employers and help workers adapt and succeed in a world rapidly changing with technology.
“Pima Community College recognizes that we as educators must adapt quickly to meet employers’ needs,” Wilson said. “Our vision for the Center of Excellence is that in partnership with our community, we will provide high-quality, in-demand programs that cultivate an agile workforce.”
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Wilson said the Advanced Manufacturing building is on track for completion by Thanksgiving and the school will get the keys in early December.
Some classes will start in the advanced manufacturing building in January, but others may take longer to set up due to longer timelines to set up furniture and computer equipment, Wilson said.
The new building will be home to Pima’s Automated Industrial Technology, Computer-Aided Design (CAD), Machining, and Welding programs and help support the school’s numerous training partnerships with local industry.
Don Theriault, president of Tucson-based Industrial Tool, Die & Engineering Inc., said the Advanced Manufacturing building — planned in consultation with industry partners — will make Pima the top school in Arizona for state-of-the-art facilities and training.
“PCC is leading the state of Arizona and this will be a cutting-edge place for learning advanced manufacturing and robotics,” said Theriault, a leader of the local industry group Southern Arizona Manufacturing Partners.
The automation and CAD programs continue to build up their robotics and 3D printing capabilities to respond to state-of-the-art workforce needs.
Among new programmes, Pima’s Automated Industrial Technology program is developing a “micro-certification” for robotics in partnership with the Arizona Advanced Technology Network, which includes the state Commerce Authority and private companies.
Pima, Maricopa County Community College and Central Arizona College have partnered under the network to develop a unified, industry-recognized structure specifically designed to teach the skills needed for high-paying advanced manufacturing jobs.
Overall, Pima had nearly 700 documented partnerships with employers in Pima County and Southern Arizona in 2020, including industry leaders like Caterpillar and Trane and self-driving truck startup TuSimple.
The renovations to the Science and Technology building will start during the Spring 2023 semester as the school moves the heavy equipment and machinery out of that structure and into the Advanced Manufacturing building, Wilson said.
The renovation of the west wing of the Science and Technology building next year will allow the school’s building and construction technology programs to expand from 2,000 square feet to 20,000 square feet.
And the two-story, 50,000-square-foot Automotive Technology and Innovation Center, which cost $12.5 million, has enabled Pima to add programs in diesel, electric and autonomous vehicles and to increase brand-specific training.
Across its other campuses, Pima has invested in Centers of Excellence in aviation technology, health professions, information technology and cybersecurity, public safety and security, hospitality and tourism.
Across town at Tucson International Airport, Pima’s highly-rated Aviation Technology program is nearing completion of a $15 million expansion project that includes a new hangar and student facilities and will roughly double its footprint and student capacity.
Jason Bowersock, academic director for the aviation program, said the expansion project is expected to be substantially complete by the end of July.
“Our goal is to have all of the furniture, equipment, and IT (information technology) in place by the end of August so that we can kick off the 2023 academic year in the new facility,” Bowersock said.
The program’s Airframe and Powerplant courses are approved by the Federal Aviation Administration and run year-round, with a waiting list for enrollment.
Pima’s program is one of a handful of programs in which students learn hands-on working on full-size jetliners, and graduates are snapped up by local aircraft maintenance and overhaul firms including Bombardier Aerospace and Ascent Aviation as well as companies across the nation.