SHERIDAN — Since breaking ground in March, progress has been steady on the renovation and expansion of the Sheridan College technical education center.

The project is ahead of schedule and on budget, according to Leonard Strobbe, general superintendent for Dick Anderson Construction.

The scheduled completion date is August 2018 and the project is still on track to cost $13 million. The college received $6.5 million from the state’s Abandoned Mine Land Fund, $6 million from Whitney Benefits and $500,000 from other private donors.

The college also received a $1.5 million grant in June from the U.S. Economic Development Administration to purchase instructional equipment.

The new building will be about 52,000 square feet, compared to the current 32,000 square feet. Sheridan College facilities director Kent Andersen said the renovation should increase enrollment capacity by 33 percent for the programs that use the tech center. Those programs are construction technology, diesel technology, welding technology and machine tool technology. The tech center is also used for two apprenticeship programs: electrician and heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) technician.

Along with ideally providing a greater learning and teaching experience, the large-scale renovation is part of a deliberate plan to increase enrollment.

“Our growth is intentional,” said Wendy Smith, Sheridan College director of marketing and public information. 

She added that the district aims to award 1,000 certificates and degrees per year by 2020.

Smith said the college is on the right track, as it awarded about 750 certificates and degrees this past spring, compared to 350 in 2010. 

Smith said the better learning tools will hopefully attract a wider array of students as well. 

“It’s about creating space so that the programs are accessible to everybody,” she said. “In today’s day and age you don’t just go lift 100 pounds … You need to use technology to help you move things around, but in order to do that in these modern shops today, you have to have the right equipment and the space to do that.”

Classes begin Monday, presenting unique challenges since student instruction will be occurring alongside the construction. 

“It’s the first time we’ve had to keep the building open and have classes going in the building that’s being redone,” Andersen said.

The new areas of the tech center will be completed in phases. The welding and diesel technology renovations are set to be finished by Jan. 1. Assuming those are ready, the welding program will move into a new space, and the construction technology program will move into the current welding location. With so much activity in one area, Strobbe said the top priority is ensuring the safety of workers and students alike.

The expansion and renovation have been in the works for a long time. After a 2013 bond initiative to cover costs of the expansion narrowly failed, it wasn’t until March 2016 that the Wyoming Legislature approved $6.5 million to be allocated to the college. Nearly one year later, construction began. 

“I was pleased to see dirt start to be moved earlier this spring,” Smith said. “It took us a little while to secure the funds, but here we are.”

CTA Architects and Arete Design Group worked with Sheridan College students and employees to design the future tech center. The process took about six months, much of which was spent getting input from faculty members. 

This is the largest overhaul to the tech center in its 40-year history. 

“We’re taking a building that was built in 1977 and we are giving it another 60 to 70 years of life because it’s going to be completely redone,” Andersen said.