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Lewiston Regional Technical Center Director Rob Callahan shares how when Auburn’s new Edward Little High School is built, it could include a new satellite for LRTC. The satellite is needed for three reasons Callahan said. LRTC has run out of space, there’s a growing demand from students for programs, and local employeers need skilled labor.

AUBURN — When the new Edward Little High School opens in five to seven years, it could include a wing that would be a satellite of the Lewiston Regional Technical Center.

LRTC Director Rob Callahan told the Auburn School Committee Wednesday night that the prospect of a partnership is exciting, and is needed on several fronts.

The six schools that send students to the LRTC at Lewiston High School are Lewiston, Edward Little, Poland, Leavitt, Oak Hill and Lisbon.

The LRTC has run out of space, Callahan said.

“We have converted every shop, lab and classroom to the programs we offered,” he said. The last program that opened in the fall, plumbing, took up the last available space.

That’s great, he said, “but what do we do the next time we have an idea for a program?”

Secondly, applications from students are growing; not all students can get into the program they want.

“Students are looking at what does an electrician make, or what (salary) can an engineer or a nurse command?” he said. 

In Auburn, there’s been a real uptick of student demand for courses, thanks in part to the leadership of Auburn’s Aspirations Director Jim Horn, who has grown and encouraged career and technical education.

“But also students are hearing from family and friends and are understanding there’s opportunity in Lewiston-Auburn for some real viable career opportunities,” he said.

Callahan also said he’s hearing from more employers that their businesses and industries need more workers.

“There’s a terrible shortage of skilled labor,” Callahan said.

An LRTC satellite in Auburn could help meet all of those demands, he said.

How many programs and students an Auburn LRTC expansion would hold is unknown. That would be up to the Edward Little High School Building Committee, the Auburn School Committee and the state, he said. The state is paying for the new high school and will approve the building’s design and budget.

Callahan said any program that would be added would be high-wage, high-growth and high-demand.

Programs that fit those categories are EMT/firefighter science, cosmetology, health care, precision machining and heavy equipment.

Marketing students from LRTC will be forming focus groups with the six sending LRTC schools, polling students to find out what programs have student interest.

Callahan cautioned there could be extra local costs for two years. The state will pay for the new building, but as far as covering program costs of faculty and equipment, the state covers costs in the state education funding formula, but there’s a two-year lag.

That would mean Auburn taxpayers would have to pay for the programs for two years. However, there’s talk in Augusta to have the state do away with the two-year lag and cover the costs immediately, but that isn’t a done deal, Callahan said.

State leaders do support the idea of offering more Maine high school students career and technical programs.

School Committee members liked what they heard.

“A (LRTC) satellite has been on our radar,” member Bonnie Hayes said.

City Councilor Jim Pross, the mayor’s representative on the school board, said the idea has support from city officials. He encouraged school officials to keep councilors informed as plans develop, and invited Callahan to talk to the City Council when the time is right.

“We’ve had discussions about the importance of directing funding toward workforce development,” Pross said. “This has been an issue that’s been on the minds of the City Council and city management,” he said.

To see the program become a reality “is really exciting,” he said. 

 

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