DECATUR — It was chilly outside, but the feeling inside the Dwayne O. Andreas Agribusiness Center was warm Tuesday as Richland Community College held a ceremonial groundbreaking for its Workforce Development Institute.

“Today, we celebrate not just another groundbreaking for a new addition, or another momentous opportunity to announce a grand partnership … This ceremonial groundbreaking represents the start of a new chapter in Richland’s 40-year story,” said President Gayle Saunders.

The bulk of the $16 million project will consist of a 45,000-square-foot building on the east end of the campus that will house technical programs, including auto body, auto technology, diesel technology and building trades. Saunders said the project will affect other parts of the campus, as well.

The project also will include the addition of a restaurant dining area on the west side of the Shilling (Community Education) Center for the Culinary Arts Institute, the renovation of the college’s existing fitness and locker room space into the Early Childhood Education Center, and the renovation of the existing auto technology space into a welding lab.

Saunders said the project will not only impact high school and college students, but also the local economy.

“The Workforce Development Institute, so simply named, is to inform the potential student community that there is opportunity for those who seek great careers that provide them employment in Central Illinois,” she said. “And it informs the employing community that there will be skilled workers for the jobs of the future.”

Doug Brauer, Richland’s vice president of Economic Development and Innovative Workforce Solutions, said the project was the result of several community partnerships and entities, including the Heartland Technical Academy.

Brett Robinson, Cerro Gordo superintendent and chairman of the Heartland Board of Control, said he was excited for the future.

“This is the next phase of our ongoing journey to prepare students for success in the work force of this community and beyond,” he said.

“This is all about the students and giving them the best educational opportunities possible,” said Saunders. “The skill sets students need for jobs today are so much more complex, and I think they will get those from the Workforce Development Institute.”

The project is scheduled to be completed by fall 2014.

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