The landscape at 30th Street and Sorensen Parkway looks a lot different these days
Metropolitan Community College has opened three new buildings on the south end of the Fort Omaha Campus. The $90 million expansion features the Construction Education Center (CEC), the Center for Advanced and Emerging Technology (CAET), and the Career and Academic Skills Center (CASC). The new academic buildings bring many trade programs to one campus, with a focus on technology-based degrees, and they put many student services under one roof.
The CEC, a 95,100-square-foot facility, houses all construction-related programs, enabling student collaboration and real-world experiences. The CEC features a state-of-the-art lab large enough for multiple programs to work on portable homes together. Plumbers work with electricians while carpenters team up with architects. The CEC houses seven programs: Architectural Design, Civil Engineering, Construction Technology, Electrical Technology, Plumbing, HVAC, and Welding. Each program is located in one area of the building, making it easy for all related classes to be near each other. This unique setting creates an atmosphere similar to a live worksite.
“The culture in the CEC is an innovative environment that encourages teamwork that’s focused on providing students with skills in an applied-learning setting,” said Willis Kennedy, an MCC instructor of Construction and Building Science. “That leads to jobs as highly trained professionals.”
The CAET is a high-tech playground ideal for those interested in careers relating to computers, automated machinery, and prototyping. It is a regional hub that brings together technology, innovation, and economic growth. The program’s offerings focus on applied technology, corporate training, prototype design, and fabrication. The CAET also features a modern data center, capable of training students for high-demand regional jobs.
Students don’t necessarily need to be working toward a full degree to take classes at the CAET. Tom Pensabene, MCC associate vice president for workforce and IT innovation, said a key focus is equipping already employed individuals with skills to stay current or move ahead.
“We’re moving to an ‘Earn to Learn’ program,” he said. “It’s about getting people into jobs they have a passion for.”
The programs are unique to the CAET, and local businesses are joining forces to help train students for their futures. One such organization is the Nebraska Department of Roads, which trains students for advanced technology in vehicles. Collaboration with local businesses and students is encouraged and made easy everywhere throughout the CAET. Other partnerships include Overhead Door and Behlen, a major manufacturer based in Nebraska.
“It’s all about participation within classrooms—it’s a lot of group work. All the tables move easily. You can work in small groups,” Pensabene said.
Designed to act as a “front door” to the college, the CASC helps students prepare and plan for the next level of academics. It houses services focused on meeting students where they are and takes them to where they want to go.
The center concentrates on creating an inviting environment that supports student engagement, learning, and life success. Services within the building include career navigation, exploration, and development, developmental education, and active learning. It also gives MCC students a place to access resources, study areas, and food.
The CASC gets away from the old practice of student-services staff offering counseling behind a desk. Instead, MCC staff use mobile devices, earpieces, and other technology to make students feel more welcome and increase intake efficiency.
“Think of it like a cellphone store or an Apple store where service staff are ready to engage you face-to-face,” said James Cloyd, MCC dean of Technology and Learning Support.
In addition to student services, the CASC features dozens of free, ongoing workshops that focus on career readiness, professional development, financial literacy, academic skills, and college success. Each workshop takes about 45 minutes and will help prospective and current students navigate college. Some workshops will be open to the public as well.
The building also features an expanded testing center, more than doubling the college’s existing space. The third floor includes new classroom space for the Design, Interactivity, and Media Arts programs. Now, students in North Omaha and the surrounding area will have improved access to courses in animation, digital media, web design, and more.
In the new buildings, students learn the skills for today’s jobs, prepare for tomorrow’s, and gain opportunities for a lifetime of learning. Whether students are near the Fort Omaha Campus, from greater Omaha, or in the four-county area, the expansion empowers them to reach their academic, career, and life goals.