MALTA — Hudson Valley Community College on Wednesday formally kicked off construction of a new educational facility in Luther Forest that will serve an estimated 1,100 students.
The 14,500-square-foot STEM Education Center will focus on science, technology, engineering and math, or STEM. It’s part of a $12.5 million expansion of HVCC North, the Troy college’s satellite campus at the Saratoga Technology and Energy Park in Malta.
HVCC President Roger Ramsammy said the college’s career skills curricula are bursting at the seams, with more students and prospective students than there is space to accommodate them. HVCC students from the north and west now pass the college’s Malta site on their way to Troy, he added.
Expanding the Malta site — called TEC-SMART, for Training and Education Center for Semiconductor Manufacturing and Alternative and Renewable Technologies — will better serve them and the students that cannot be accommodated in Troy.
One of HVCC’s partners in the effort to teach career skills is GlobalFoundries, which operates the massive Fab 8 computer chip factory almost next door and is considering constructing a second factory nearby.
“They were one of the first support systems that allowed us to be standing here,” Ramsammy said at Wednesday’s ceremonial ground-breaking.
“Our new and enhanced facilities at HVCC will enable us to provide a greater pipeline of high-skilled workers to the growing industries in New York state. Our local employers have been asking for this for quite a while.”
U.S. Rep. Paul Tonko, D-Amsterdam, who has pressed for spending on the physical infrastructure of the high-tech economy, said the effort cannot stop there. “If we do not have the human infrastructure, we’re failing in the attempt,” he said.
The new facility will allow students to experience their potential future jobs in a more realistic setting, Tonko said, and he’s attempting to push through a $2.065 million federal grant to purchase equipment in the new building.
HVCC North has a sharp focus on specific high-demand sectors of clean energy and high-tech manufacturing, he noted, both of which are relevant to the region and its economy.
Johanna Duncan-Poitier, SUNY’s senior vice chancellor for community colleges and the education pipeline, said HVCC’s collaborative effort to develop a career pipeline with businesses, K-12 educators, higher education government and nonprofits across the eight-county region has gained notice beyond New York.
And it is needed, she said: “You cannot go to an event and meet with employers who will not say that they need more qualified, educated, trained individuals to do the jobs that they have,” she said. “They’re waiting for us to do this.”
Ramsammy said HVCC has experienced little overall decline in enrollment amid the pandemic. Liberal arts, which is the major for about 55% of the college’s students, saw a decline, but “We were not seeing declines in our skilled trades,” he said. “In fact our skilled trades were packed, we didn’t have room for them.”
Rising construction costs led to changes in the construction and renovation plans at HVCC North but did not derail the project itself, Ramsammy said.
“One reason we never gave up on this project: We don’t have enough room for kids who are in those programs, we have a long list of people waiting to get in,” he said.
“It allows for us to add more to our current program. So, yes, it may increase enrollment but that’s not the purpose of it. This facility does help the whole Capital Region increase our workforce in that area.”