San Jac breaks ground on transportation center
Cars these days have such complex computer networks, they're like rolling office buildings, says David Norman, Automotive Department chairman at San Jacinto College Central campus, in Pasadena.
Teaching people to fix cars full of computers takes technology as sophisticated as the vehicles, Norman said.
The college is in the forefront of that effort, with the June 16 groundbreaking on a $20 million transportation center.
The 95,000-square-foot facility, which will house the school's automotive department, is under construction just east of the central campus, near Spencer Highway and Luella Avenue.
A state-of-the-art facility with space for 48 automotive bays, the building is scheduled to be finished by the end of April 2011, and ready for classes in August 2011, said Bryan Jones, the college's associate vice chancellor for facilities and construction.
It will be a very robust building that will be there a long time," Jones said.
Designed by Morris architects and constructed by Durotech Inc., both based in Houston, the new center will be energy-efficient, he said.
We're working hard to have it LEED-silver certified," Jones said, referring to the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design rating system developed by the U.S. Green Building Council.
LEED certification brings in a whole spectrum of sustainability features, such as proximity to public transportation and rainwater management," Jones said.
The transportation center is the first project to get under way as part of a $295 million bond project that San Jacinto College District voters approved in May 2008.
The next project, set to begin in late July, is construction of a 35,000-square-foot addition to the health science building on Central campus.
In December, work is scheduled to start on a new, 98,000-square-foot science building for Central campus, at Schochler Drive and Cunningham Street.
The 2008 bond package also includes construction projects for the college's North and South campuses.
The Transportation Center on Central campus will house not only credit programs for college students, but also training centers for General Motors' and Chrysler's factory-certified technicians.
Through other partnerships with GM, Chrysler, Ford, Toyota and Honda, students who already have jobs at dealerships study for two years at San Jacinto.
The automotive department has about 300 students, about 80 percent of whom are there through jobs at dealerships, Norman said.
About 2 percent of the students are women, and the college is working to increase that percentage, he said.
When students finish the program, they have an associate of applied science degree that is transferable to a four-year college.
San Jacinto has an agreement with the University of Houston's College of Technology for students who want to pursue a bachelor's degree in technology leadership and supervision.
The value of the training students have when they leave here, they can't get any other place around," Norman said.
Since the mid-1980s, San Jacinto has been the only college training site for auto manufacturers in south Texas, Norman said.
Graduates of the program can expect to earn $25,000 to $35,000 their first year, Norman said.
If they work hard and are skilled at their trade, they might advance to annual salaries topping $60,000 within five years, he said.
What are you guaranteed? Nothing," said Norman, who started working on cars as a teenager in the automotive technology program at Pasadena High School, where he graduated in 1971.
He spent 10 years as a helicopter mechanic in the Navy and then owned Norman's Auto Repair in Pasadena for about five years in the mid-1980s.
At that point, he entered San Jacinto's automotive program, earning an associate's degree in 1988. He began teaching there the same year
He said, I never thought I'd be doing what I'm doing right now."
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