CCAC Workforce Center1 rendering.

It’s all about matching skills with high-demand jobs to prepare students for the workforce of the future.

A $40 million Workforce Development and Training Center is in the works at the Community College of Allegheny County, which will offer programs in culinary arts, advanced manufacturing and information technology.

The college plans to start construction in May 2020 on the three-story, 57,000-square-foot building at 811 Ridge Ave. on its North Side campus, Desmone Architects said in a recent presentation to the City Planning Commission.

On Tuesday, CCAC publicly launched a $65 million fundraising campaign, “Pioneering Pittsburgh’s New Workforce,” and announced a $5 million lead gift from Highmark Health.

“Our number one objective at CCAC is to fully prepare our students to be leaders in the workforce of today and tomorrow,” said Fred Thieman, CCAC board chairman. He said corporate and community support are “key to fulfilling our goal of equipping students for lucrative career opportunities in new and emerging fields.”

CCAC Workforce Development and Training Center site plan rendering.

The college has more than $44 million already committed toward the campaign by county, state, foundation and corporate partners. In addition to the new building, the campaign will provide $20 million to upgrade workforce development capacity across all CCAC campuses, including the renovation of Chalfant Hall on the North Side, which will become CCAC’s new Center for Teaching and Learning. In addition, the campaign will include $5 million for new college-wide programming.

Gov. Tom Wolf pledged state investment in the project in 2017, noting that “jobs exist for workers with the right skills.” Projects such as this one, he said, “are critical to enabling the Pittsburgh regional economy to continue growing.”

Wolf said the Pennsylvania Department of Education will finance half of the annual capital cost of a 20-year, $20 million bond to construct the new workforce center.

The new building will feature shared classrooms, collaboration space and an innovation lab, as well as an outdoor plaza with seating and a penthouse level. Desmone Architects estimates construction will take 18 months, wrapping up in November 2021.

The architect’s plans situate the building on open space next to CCAC’s Foerster Student Services Center and catty-corner to the library, and note that the college’s goal is “to create an environment where students can acquire training for high-demand jobs to meet with 21st-century workforce demands.”

CCAC Workforce Center2 rendering

Desmone has designed a LEED Silver project “that celebrates CCAC’s commitment to sustainable development and that contributes to the initiatives of the Pittsburgh 2030 District,” the architecture firm assured city planners. The brick and limestone building will have two first-floor entrances and, because of the sloping site, one third-floor entrance.

During construction, the team will use a staff parking lot for staging and will minimize closures and disruption to Ridge Avenue and its sidewalks.

CCAC and Desmone have discussed the plans with the Allegheny West Civic Council, which offered design suggestions important to the community so that the new building complements those around it, many of which were built in the early 1900s. But even while ensuring consistent design, Desmone noted, the team wanted to “reflect the architecture and construction techniques of today, rather than giving a false historical impression.”

In its 2010 Allegheny Campus Institutional Master Plan, which is scheduled to be updated, CCAC notes that “partnerships with business and industry in southwestern Pennsylvania are integral to its mission” and that CCAC “provides opportunities for customized workplace training, continuing education and technical skills proficiency for both the public and private sectors.”

Sandra Tolliver

Sandra Tolliver is a freelance writer, editor and public relations professional in Upper St. Clair.