by MATT MOLINAR//Editor-in-Chief
South Plains College’s newest campus location offers a workforce hub with easy accessibility to those who live in Lubbock.
The new facility, located at 3907 Avenue Q, increases student accessibility by offering a variety of programs in technical fields, including automotive technology and machinist trades, along with academic courses. The location houses more than 77,000 square feet, which will provide students with state-of-the-art equipment, multiple labs, and classrooms for instruction.
“It’s all about accessibility,” said Kevin McConnic, executive director of the Lubbock Center. “Lubbock is a population center. So by nature, having a facility here allows us to grow our accessibility. It gives folks an opportunity, who otherwise would not be able to make it to the Levelland, or even Reese campuses.”
At the Byron Martin Advanced Technology Center just down the street from the new location, SPC began offering courses in a community partnership with the Lubbock ISD. According to McConnic, the Byron Martin ATC was at full capacity, with a waiting list. The need for more space, along with the community’s need for a skilled work force, led to the planning and construction of the Lubbock Center.
“The partnership with Lubbock ISD lasted about 17 years,” McConnic said. “But, both programs were busting at the seams. Last I looked, we were at 790 students. That’s 53 percent up from enrollment at the ATC from last fall. I expect that a year from now, we will be close to capacity, which is maybe more that 400 more students. However, at this new location, we have more core offerings. The ATC was focused more on workforce development and technical fields. But here, you can get your academics.”
One wing of the Lubbock Center is where all labs and classroom for technical fields are located. The technical labs are stocked with high-tech equipment, which allows instructors to adapt to using newer technologies.
“The AutoTech program is already rockin’ and rollin’,” McConnic said. “Almost everything in here is brand new. So the instructors are being instructed. I know we have already received calls from shops in town asking if we have any students that would want to begin working in their shop. So, these guys are the experts. They will teach you everything you need to know. One interesting thing is that some of this technology is so new, that when students find a job in an auto shop, students will end up going backward in technology, because many of the shops in town just don’t have it yet.”
New, high-tech equipment, ranging in cost from $20,000 to $100,000, is also provided in the welding and metal fabrication program, which is currently at full capacity, with a waiting list for next fall.
“I currently have 16 students in class, with seven on the waiting list,” said Larry Kirk, welding instructor at the Lubbock Center. “The only issue here is that the next group of students will have to wait the whole year to enroll in the next program. This situation is high demand.”
McConnic says that around 30 instructors are currently working in the new facility, with more to come as new programs and labs are being constructed.
“Whether it’s paralegals, real estate agents, firemen, we have those experienced people here,” McConnic explained.
Kirk has been in the welding industry for 40 years. He says after he graduated with his associate’s degree in welding technology, he was able to work his way up to leadership positions. After leaving the industry, Kirk decided he wanted to teach and joined the advisory committee.
“I’ve been on the committee for about 28 years before teaching,” Kirk said. “So most of our programs have an advisory committee that does consist of people in the community that work in that specific field. They tell us what kind of equipment we need, and what skills and knowledge the students need to go and be remarkable and hirable.”
Like Kirk, McConnic was able to work his way up to a leadership position, and found himself at the Lubbock Center. But his background is slightly different.
“For most of the past 11 years, my work has been in retail,” McConnic explained. “I worked with United Supermarkets, where I started as a seafood clerk before I was able to get my degree. But I quickly moved into a leadership development role. The last position I had there was Manager of Education in Community Partnership. I was a really big part of trying to help out with our culinary arts program.”
After receiving his master’s degree in organizational management from Wayland Baptist University, McConnic worked in higher education for three years in student business services at Texas Tech University.
At the Lubbock Center, three women, who have been named “Student Support Specialists,” have been cross-trained in the three main student services, further adding to the campus’ ease of accessibility.
“If you go to Cindy, one of our Student Support Specialists, you can talk to her about financial aid, business, and registration,” McConnic said. “They have a very broad base of information they’ve got to know. There’s quite a learning curve, but they are doing a great job. We’ve got great folks here that are going to take care of you.”
[Photo by RILEY GOLDEN/ PLAINSMAN PRESS]