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Support sought for community voc-tech center

Should a vocational technology center be established in the Sunnyside community it definitely needs to have components for adult occupational training.

That was the feeling of Sunnyside business leaders attending an informational meeting concerning the $10 million project, held Wednesday morning at the Sunnyside School District Denny Blaine building.

The Sunnyside School District, in a partnership with the Sunnyside Port District, Sunnyside Chamber of Commerce and the Sunnyside Economic Development Association, is seeking to create a vocational technology skills center in Sunnyside by the year 2008.

The Lower Valley Skills Center would be located the Port of Sunnyside industrial park on East Edison Avenue, and is expected to be designed to offer vocational training to enhance the skills of the local work force. In addition, the proposed center would also offer state-of-the-art technology skill training to attract other businesses to the community.

"We have people ready to get on board, but now we need to get really focused on what the needs of the community are regarding skills training," said Dr. Rick Cole, Sunnyside School District Superintendent.

Cole said the Sunnyside School District is totally behind the project, but in order for it to be of the best benefit to the community, the business community needs to be on board.

From conversations held at Wednesday's meeting, it would appear that Sunnyside's leaders are ready to give their nod to the project.

"But first we need to determine exactly what type of training we need. For that information we have to go to the businessmen," said Ivan White, Sunnyside CPA and member of the Sunnyside Economic Development Association board of directors.

White said he hopes the skills center would include a component to offer training to those adults in the 20-30 age bracket, who, for whatever reason, have returned to Sunnyside and now want to make this community their home.

"We talking about jobs for such existing businesses as Can-Am, Valley Manufacturing and Valley Processing," White said.

But, he said, in order to find out exactly what kinds of skills these business owners need, "...we have to go to them and talk with them," he said.

Toward that goal, the Sunnyside Economic Development Association is preparing a needs assessment that will help the skills center partnership to determine areas of concern.

In addition to determining the needs for the Lower Valley high school students' future vocational and technological training, the survey will seek answers to questions regarding skill needs of new businesses seeking to locate in the community. The needs survey would also seek to determine the ongoing needs of businesses and companies already established in the community, said Sue Jetter, a grant writer for the SEDA partnership.

Jetter said funding options for the project will most likely come from federal and state money. "There are matching funds available," she added.

"It's time to take our ideas and put them into an action plan," said Cole.

"I believe we have a general consensus to move ahead with this plan," Cole said.

The partnership will meet again in mid-June to examine the results of the needs assessment, he added.

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