Hard hats and safety goggles are part of the daily routine at a recently-opened job training facility in Middletown operated by Delaware Technical Community College.
Students from local high schools as well as adult learners are becoming experts in diesel mechanics, operating heavy equipment, maintaining air brakes and building and highway construction.
The hope is they will qualify for jobs in one of the fastest-growing areas of the state, or elsewhere in Delaware. The local labor shortage has led to importation of workers from other states for important projects such as the Route 301 Bypass.
"A lot of it was based on the fact that companies couldn't bid on pieces of a job because they didn't have enough employees. We're hoping to stop that and we're hoping in the future we'll be able to hire Delawareans for those jobs," Delaware Tech Innovation and Technology Center Operations Manager Rodney Bailey said.
The center on North Cass Street is located in a building operated by the Town of Middletown. Delaware Tech renovated a portion of it, using money from Delaware's Higher Education Investment Fund.
"Not only are we serving the construction industry and the diesel mechanic industry. We're also providing that pipeline for the construction industry starting in 9th, 10th and 11th grades," Delaware Tech President Dr. Mark Brainard said at Monday's ribbon-cutting ceremony. "By the time those students graduate and leave here, they will be the entry level pipeline for that industry that's so critical to Delaware's growth."
Brainard added that Delaware Tech has several off-campus training centers that are close to businesses and industries where future employees are trained.
"The fact that we have so many people going to work and the unemployment rate is so low is a really good thing for our state. The challenge is that in order to be successful we need to produce the workers to keep that all going," Governor John Carney (D- Delaware) said.
"We've wanted Del Tech for a long time," Middletown Mayor Ken Branner said. "We view this as a trifecta not only for the students but it's also for Del Tech and it's also for the Town of Middletown."