More space available for popular welding, auto tech programs
High school students learning welding and auto mechanics will be taught in larger, upgraded shop facilities through a $1.47 million expansion project underway at TwispWorks.
TwispWorks provides shop space for the Methow Valley School District’s welding and automotive tech classes on the northeast corner of the campus. Teaching facilities for both programs are being renovated and expanded to enhance teaching and accommodate more students.
The improved career and technical training facilities are also intended to address larger challenges facing the Methow Valley community, including retention of youth talent, labor shortages, and lack of living wage jobs in the local economy.
Renovations to the welding shop were completed last year, and include a new classroom and bathrooms exclusively for student use. Two additional bathrooms on the outside of the welding shop building will be open for public use this spring.
TwispWorks celebrated groundbreaking on a new automotive tech shop on Tuesday (April 11). The facility will be an entirely new building, attached to the existing welding facility. With more than 2,000 square feet, it will provide two bays for vehicles, replacing a one-bay facility located behind the Independent Learning Center’s bunkhouse building.
The expanded automotive tech shop will increase enrollment capacity from 4-6 students to 12-16 students per semester, said Tom Venable, Methow Valley School District superintendent. The new shop, modeled on typical auto shops, is expected to be completed by the end of the year. The new auto tech facility will have the capacity to include electric vehicles in the curriculum.
The renovation of the welding shop will not necessarily increase capacity; the program is already full at 18 students per course, Venable said. However, “it will provide our students and staff with access to industry-standard equipment.” The new welding facility has been described by an instructor in another technical education program as the “gold standard” for technical training programs in the region to emulate, Venable said.
“Additionally, the newly installed welding bays will significantly reduce the emitting of pollutants into the air, both within the shop and outside the shop, responding to the interests of the neighborhood” adjacent to TwispWorks, Venable said.
The educational facilities expansion is a step toward achieving goals set by the school district during its “Dream Big” planning process in 2020. Increasing career and technical education was one of the key ideas that came out of that community planning process.
The programs aim to meet the demand for skilled workers and fill gaps in the current labor force. In the long run, the programs may help students find good paying jobs in the Methow Valley and help stem the flow of young people out of the valley, said Venable.
“Driven by student interest and local skills gaps, these programs are being developed to position students aged 16-24 for upward mobility in livable wage earning jobs in the community,” he said.
“More specifically, these programs are being designed to capitalize on a range of expertise and experience that exists right here in the Methow Valley, providing students with increased opportunities for exposure, exploration and engagement in relevant, real work experiences and … directly linking students and graduates to career-connected post-secondary degrees, certificate programs and future employment,” Venable said.
Through the partnership with TwispWorks, the Methow Valley School District provides the programming (equipment, curriculum, staff, enrollment, etc.) for the technical training courses, while TwispWorks provides and maintains the facilities.
In addition to the shop facilities expansion, the project also includes improvements to the northeast corner of TwispWorks where the school district shops and Little Star School’s Twisp campus are located. The improvements includes paving gravel parking areas and creating sidewalks and pathways for pedestrians in that part of the TwispWorks campus. Work on this part of the project is expected to begin in spring of 2024 and be completed by fall of that year.
The $1.47 million facilities expansion is a partnership of TwispWorks and the Methow Valley School District. The project has received support from Moccasin Lake Foundation, which committed $758,000, and the M.J. Murdock Charitable Trust, which provided a grant of $450,000.
The Confluence Health and Wenatchee Valley Medical Group Community Partnership Fund has provided $3,000. An additional $241,000 is needed to complete the project, and TwispWorks is seeking grant funding as well as contributions from individuals and businesses.
“The educational facilities expansion partnership between TwispWorks, Methow Valley School District, Moccasin Lake Foundation, and Murdock Charitable Trust is forward-thinking and supports both our local economy and our students,” said Sarah Brown, executive director of TwispWorks. “The automotive technology teaching facility is visionary and holds an incredible amount of promise for our community well into the future.”
People interested in donating to support the project can do so at: twispworks.org/on-campus/educational-facilities-expansion.