Washburn Tech East

A glimpse into the future of Washburn Tech East

Matthew L. Self

Washburn Tech is proud to announce that it is planning to open a new location here in Topeka that will offer training in construction trades, health care, ESL courses (English as a Second Language), General Education Diplomas (GED) and Commercial Driver’s Licenses (CDL). This new building will benefit those who live primarily in East Topeka as its main focus is to bring higher education closer to those living farther away from Washburn Tech’s main building and attract more potential students to Washburn. This new building is set to open in January 2019.

This new building was announced this year March 15 at an official ground-breaking event that was attended by President Jerry Farley, the dean of Washburn Tech Clark Coco and hundreds of local leaders and community members. The new building is located at 2014 SE Washington St.The combined forces of Washburn Tech, the Joint Economic Development Organization (JEDO) and GO Topeka are all contributing to this project; GO Topeka and JEDO have funded the project with almost $5.5 million while Washburn provides the staff for the facility. JEDO also purchased the site for the cost of $240,000 and is providing up to $4 million for the partial demolition and remodeling of the existing facility. Also, JEDO is willing to provide up to $500,000 in partnership funds per year for three years for start-up and operational expenses. President Farley was pleased to announce the construction of this new facility earlier this year.

“We’re going to open a new chapter in Washburn’s history and the history of Topeka. This project has been a dream for a number of people for many, many years and an 11,000-square foot facility is what will help make that dream come true,” said Farley at the announcement ceremony.

The new branch of Washburn Tech has faced construction delays in the past year that have posed a serious problem to the University as far as meeting the expected deadline of having the building ready to begin hosting courses for students in 2019. Issues that have arisen with the construction firm managing the project for the new building have been brought before the Joint Economic Development Organization’s (JEDO) counsel to discover whether or not the contractor is in default of their contract. If so, the building could face a delay in its expected finish date. Even if the building is not completely ready to begin hosting courses, the university is prepared to set up temporary sites for classes near the new building’s location.

Research conducted by Ketchum Global Research and Analytics found that, according to data provided by GO Topeka, there are nearly 13,000 working adults in Shawnee County who do not have a GED. This market data report confirmed the need for the construction of a new educational facility in East Topeka that taught the courses being offered in 2019. Washburn Tech’s new building hopes to solve this problem by offering courses to East Topekans that focus on trade skills and healthcare training. These courses will vastly improve the number of trained working professionals living in our community, consequently helping improve our local economy and positively affect the East Topeka community.

Those who are pursuing any career pathway at this new building will be able to participate in the Accelerating Opportunity: Kansas program (AO-K), which will aid students who are receiving their GED and technical training. The costs for attending Washburn Tech will be greatly reduced for the AO-K participants. Financial assistance will also be available for students who already have their high school diploma.

Clark Coco, the dean of Washburn Tech, is optimistic for this new addition to Washburn Tech’s program and the opportunities it will provide to new students in the East Topeka community.

“This project offers yet another opportunity to work with our business and industry partners as we deliver technical training to the east Topeka community,” Coco said. “Today’s workforce is going to need some type of post-secondary education to compete in the job market. We are committed to providing the future students who come to Washburn Tech East with the skills and training they need to find employment in these high-demand jobs.”

It is the hope of the local business leaders and others who helped fund this project that this new building will help Topeka grow in the future. With its prime location in the eastern portion of Topeka, this new building will have an effect on the populace as it gives them the opportunity to attend courses to become trained and skilled individuals entering the job market.