The College of Southern Nevada received a nearly $7 million grant from the federal government to build a new educational facility to teach much-needed skills for high-paying jobs across the valley.
The U.S. Department of Commerce’s Economic Development Administration said Thursday it is awarding $6.9 million in CARES Act Recovery Assistance grant funds to support workforce education and training at the College of Southern Nevada.
The grant will fund the construction of a 10,000-square-foot center at CSN, located on a 2-acre site adjacent to the Historic Westside School on West Washington Avenue in Las Vegas.
The new training facility – Westside Workforce Education & Training Center, a partnership between CSN and the city of Las Vegas – will house manufacturing, welding, computer and health care laboratories, classrooms and office space. The grant is expected to help create 300 jobs.
‘Unlike what we’ve done in the past’
Federico Zaragoza, president of CSN, told the Review-Journal in a phone interview Thursday that the grant will be an opportunity for underserved communities to get the necessary skills and education to work in an in-demand industry.
Think manufacturing, information technology, nursing, welding and other career pathways.
“What we’re trying to do is to identify emerging sectors in Las Vegas, beyond the traditional hospitality and tourism,” Zaragoza said. “That’s why you see an effort to diversify and to target multiple sectors.”
Zaragoza said the model is targeted for individuals that are undeserved, people who might not have a high school diploma that’s necessary for many jobs. “This is a bridge; these are the types of programs that address the community and the national challenges that employers and leaders are concerned about,” he said.
Zaragoza said that there were many manufacturing jobs across the valley pre-COVID, and despite the pandemic, construction of new housing remains strong.
“It’s an up-and-coming area for good-paying jobs,” he said, adding that other sectors, like information technology, have been “an area where there’s more jobs than they have for qualified applicants.”
That is where the new center comes in. It will provide underserved students an opportunity to not only receive their General Educational Development but also to get them into one of those identified pathways.
“Most of these areas require skill certifications, and that’s what these centers are going to do: To make sure that individuals don’t just have an education, but also the skills certifications required by the employers,” said Zaragoza. The college is working with various employers across the valley to identify those skill sets and align it with the curriculum.
“For many, the transition to pathways brings good-paying jobs that have the ability to sustain families, so at a very high level, that’s what this part is about. It’s very unlike what we’ve done in the past,” Zaragoza said.
Elected officials applaud move
Nevada’s congressional delegation said the grant will help locals looking for workforce training.
Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto said the new center “will help so many in Las Vegas find work in in-demand industries as the Silver State’s economy recovers from the coronavirus pandemic.”
Rep. Dina Titus said in a tweet, “This project will create jobs and help revitalize this historic neighborhood.”
Titus wrote a letter in support of the grant in February 2020, saying the new facility will serve approximately 450 students annually and “will train the unemployed, under-employed, and yet-to-be employed citizens within and well beyond the Historic Westside for entry-level careers in advanced manufacturing, health care, information technology, and the construction trades.”
Sen. Jacky Rosen said Nevada needs to bolster investment in workforce development.
“We put our economy at risk if we fail to properly invest in workforce development,” she said in a statement. “I applaud the EDA for making this important investment toward CSN’s new workforce training facility that will enhance the education and training experience of Nevada’s students. I will continue to support forward-thinking proposals that ensure our 21st century workforce is equipped with the tools they need to succeed.”
Rep. Steven Horsford said, “Nevada’s unique economy has suffered from devastating job loss over the last year, with many jobs disappearing forever. To get our economy back on track, we need to make major investments in job creation and training.”