The local economy will rebound, expand and prosper.
To make that happen, it will need a place where workers can improve their skills for 21st century needs.
That's the feeling at the top echelons of Blackhawk Technical College, which has a new master plan that calls for greatly expanding the school.
"We have faith in the economic growth of this region," BTC President Tom Eckert said in a recent interview.
Blackhawk Technical College's last expansion ended seven years ago with the completion of $17.5 million in referendum projects at the main campus in central Rock County and in Monroe.
Since then, BTC has added its Beloit Center at the Eclipse Center, recently increasing its classroom space there.
But needs have grown and are expected to continue to do so, Eckert said.
"We envision getting bigger and serving more people," he said.
The referendum project left room for about 3,000 full- and part-time students, Eckert said. But that was before General Motors and related employers closed their doors and the national economy took a nosedive.
Enrollment increased 54 percent as workers tried to reinvent themselves, Eckert said, and even though the economy seems to be strengthening, enrollments have dropped only slightly.
Computers, health sciences, even the culinary department are crowded, Eckert said. The Monroe campus is at capacity. Prospective students are being told there's no more room.
"When you have no place to put anybody, you have to address it," Eckert said.
BTC officials and Strang Inc. of Madison have been working on the master plan for about two years.
Strang's research included an assessment of buildings and grounds, collection of data on how and when rooms are used, interviews with staff and students and alignment of the plan to the college's strategic goals, said Renea Ranguette, BTC's vice president for finance and operations.
Strang, which was paid was paid $123,410 for the work, also wrote a five-year maintenance plan that covers projects such as replacement of roofs, parking lots, windows and various parts of the heating/cooling system.
One of the recurring themes Strang heard from staff in all divisions was a lack of general-purpose classrooms, Ranguette said.
Classroom space is at a premium, even though classes are scheduled in the evenings and on weekends.
Other areas for expansion the study identified by talking to staff and students:
-- More large, tiered lecture halls, especially for general-education classes.
-- More spaces for staff and students to collaborate. The ability to work in teams is said to be a key skill employers want.
-- More conference/meeting rooms for the college's frequent guests.
-- More dual-purpose rooms -- for example, a room with traditional seating along with computer stations.
-- More lab space for health services classes with an increasing emphasis on simulating what goes on in hospitals and clinics. Health professions continue to be one of the highest-demand areas at BTC.
-- More interactive training spaces for police and firefighter training.
-- The library is small but used intensively. More wireless Internet access and small rooms for study groups are needed, Ranguette said.
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