When Eastern Iowa Community Colleges (EICC) celebrated their official grand opening at the DeWitt Career Advancement Center last week, they weren’t just opening doors to the facility. They were opening doors to new career academies, college pathways and opportunities for unlimited success.

The 26,000-square-foot, state-of-the-art facility will serve eight rural school districts in Clinton and Jackson counties and will feature six different career academy programs in career and technical education (CTE). Students will have opportunities to earn short-term certificates and credits towards diplomas and associate degrees in agriculture, CNC (computer numerical control) machining, construction technology, health care, information technology and small business management. Courses at the DeWitt regional center will be split into two wings housing classroom learning and hands-on training with industry-standard equipment for industrial technology and agricultural programs.

“We worked with local high schools to see what programs resonated with students,” said Brian Kelly, EICC vice chancellor of strategy, support and planning and president of Clinton Community College. “The programs are also reflections of the jobs in the community and what careers are in-demand.”

DeWitt Regional Center

The new DeWitt regional center is funded from a portion of a local $40 million bond referendum as well as a $1 million grant award from the Iowa Department of Education’s Career Academy Incentive Fund.

“The Career Academy Incentive Fund award was an amazing victory,” Kelly said. “It was validation of the work that we are doing for the EICC community. We were excited to be recognized by the state and awarded the $1 million that was instrumental to us getting from our groundbreaking ceremony to having students in seats.”

Established in 2019 through the Secure an Advanced Vision for Education fund, the Career Academy Incentive Fund supports partnerships between community colleges and school districts that help expand access to career academies, which are intended to link high school CTE programs with college-level programming.

“We want to continue to grow career academies across the state,” said Heather Meissen, education program consultant at the Iowa Department of Education. “The Career Academy Incentive Fund highlights collaboration between Iowa school districts and community colleges and how their work together can help students develop skills, earn credentials and find potential career pathways.”

The DeWitt Career Advancement Center itself serves as a model of how local communities, school districts and industries can come together to provide a high-quality learning facility.

“We had great partners for the center,” Kelly said. “School districts in Clinton and Jackson counties pledged 10 years of students to attend the career academies. Superintendents, the DeWitt chamber organization, development corporations, Grow Clinton and industry partners all worked closely with us.”

De Witt Regional Center

Kelly foresees the DeWitt regional center as a growing hub for the community. It will not only provide career academy opportunities for students, it will also serve as a center for businesses looking to upskill their employees.

“We are in an amazing location in DeWitt, near several companies and corporations,” he said. “We can help train new and incumbent workers, and with this location, there is easy access to new opportunities.”

The grand opening of the DeWitt Career Advancement Center was held Oct. 19, and students started their first classes earlier for the fall semester. Kelly is excited for the students and community to visit and experience what the center has to offer.

“We are thrilled to be here,” he said. “We can be a catalyst for growth with students, businesses and the community.”

Grant applications for the first round of the 2023-24 Career Academy Incentive Fund will be accepted through Nov. 16. Questions can be directed to Meissen at heather.meissen@iowa.gov.

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