Skills center, student housing projects on track

January 5, 2021

With a new year beginning, construction continues apace at Columbia Gorge Community College, which will open its new workforce skills center and student residential hall on The Dalles campus by Fall Term 2021. The two new buildings represent the largest expansion of the college’s physical capacity since 2008, when CGCC opened classroom buildings in Hood River and The Dalles.

The 24,000 sq. ft. skills center will support new career-technical programs, with design flexibility for workforce needs of the future. High-bay interior space will be complemented by a design lab, makerspace and two conjoined classrooms.

The 12,000 sq. ft., 50-bed residential hall will provide affordable on-campus student housing, with a first-floor kitchen and second-floor lounge overlooking the Columbia Gorge.

The $16 million project is made possible through a $7.3 million commitment from the Oregon Legislature, matched in part by $3.5 million from the City of The Dalles and Wasco County. The college itself provided the balance through a full faith and credit bond; no local tax measure was required.

Along with the new construction, the college is developing three new career-technical programs.

Advanced manufacturing and fabrication will expand the college’s existing welding program with training on plasma cutters, metal bending, drill press and other tools, together with CNC design software. In addition to equipment operation and industrial safety, students learn the math, communication and blueprint skills necessary for a variety of careers in advanced manufacturing.

Likewise, a new construction trades program will integrate the tools of carpentry with foundation and framing techniques, and basic building projects, all with an emphasis on safety. Students in both programs will learn computer-assisted design software.

A third new program will be based at Columbia Gorge Regional Airport in Dallesport. This is an aircraft maintenance technician program. Pending approval by the Federal Aviation Administration, Columbia Gorge would join Lane Community College, Portland Community College and several colleges in Washington State in offering “Airframe and Powerplant” training. Aviation industry leaders cite a continuing demand for aviation mechanics; with its new student residential hall, Columbia Gorge will be positioned as a “destination institution.”

All three programs currently are in the review stage, subject to approval internally and by the Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities, through which Columbia Gorge is accredited.

The skills center and student residential hall are scheduled for completion July 23, 2021. A webcam shows construction progress via YouTube. Viewers can locate it by searching “Columbia Gorge Community College construction webcam,” then click the YouTube link.