A growing need for specialized workers and a growing area in the Dallas-Fort Worth metroplex became a catalyst for North Central Texas College to expand.

The Gainesville-based junior college opened North Central Texas College Alliance Training Center on Aug. 22.

The latest campus for NCTC came together quickly thanks to more than $2.4 million from the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board’s Texas Reskilling and Upskilling for Education grants, according to Darrell Smith, NCTC division chair for industrial and energy technology. The school received three different grants, which were used to purchase equipment, curriculum development, technology and instruction costs for a technical training center.

NCTC has a grand opening and ribbon-cutting ceremony set for Oct. 5, according to Smith. Officials expect the facility to be operational by mid-October, just in time for the second eight-week slate of classes. The plan was initially to have everything ready for the third week of September. When that change happened, the school switched to online only for the first eight weeks.

“Now, once we get there and once we get going there, I think we’ll be fine,” said Smith, who works at the Gainesville campus and will teach at NCTC Alliance.

Alliance location

NCTC is covering the lease for a 25,000-square-foot building and the cost to finish out construction of the location at 3440 Hwy. 114.

“NCTC has wanted to have a location in the western Denton County area for quite some time,” said Debbie Sharp, vice president of external affairs. “These grant funds allowed NCTC to respond to the training needs within the western Denton County service area.”

A college advisory board looked at locations for a training center in either Denton or the I-35W corridor area, and the Alliance area won out, according to Smith.

Reasons for the campus, Smith said, included construction and growth in the area, the large manufacturing presence and the transportation hub near the Alliance area of Fort Worth.

The seventh campus for NCTC, the Alliance location is not a full campus and is focused on industrial mechatronics and medical office technology. The courses are designed to provide the education needed to get workers into the field in as little as eight weeks in some programs and no more than two years in others. With the TRUE grant there will be up to $2,500 per student available to cover the cost of the programs, according to the school’s press release.

“If you are wanting to upskill or reskill, we try to remove as many boundaries as possible,” said Jake Laughlin, director of marketing and public relations. “It is an effort by the state to try to invest and help industries that were most affected by COVID-19. Historically, there are not as many skilled trade workers as the market needs. We are excited. This is a big investment and leap forward as a college to offer skilled trades in the Denton County area.”

The Texas Legislature appropriated $15 million in TRUE grants during the 2021 session, with the funds coming from the American Rescue Plan Act.

State Rep. Tan Parker, R, who represents parts of Trophy Club, Westlake, Roanoke and Fort Worth, said Texas community colleges have more than 90% of the state’s workforce credentials.

“The junior colleges and vocational schools in the state work to meet the needs of the business community to be able to create a certificate program that you could really receive a certificate at in less than six months,” Parker said. “Because, let’s be honest, everybody needs workers yesterday; we can’t wait two years. And so we’ve got to be able to find ways to more rapidly get people reskilled to enter the workforce. It doesn’t matter whether or not these are folks that are early on in their careers in their 20s, or whether or not we’re talking to folks who are in their 60s and 70s that want to go back to work and get new skills.”

With a location close to a number of warehouses, the possibility is there to build relationships with corporations to find what is needed in the workforce in the Alliance area, Smith said.

“That area is really close to a lot of great businesses that will need more and more workforce development over the next few years, and we are excited to be in that position,” Laughlin said. “There are so many industries in need of workforce development, and we are excited to offer that.”

Course offerings

Industrial mechatronics and medical office technology—Allied Health Science—are the two main programs at NCTC Alliance.

Industrial mechatronics, which currently has 24 students, is the troubleshooting, repair and programming of robotics. Robots have taken a bigger role inside warehouse locations, such as distribution centers, but when they quit working properly, a worker must fix them.

The industrial mechatronics portion of the TRUE grant money was used to buy technology for the students to work with.

The medical office technology program at Alliance is the administrative side of the medical field. The courses—which include clinical medical assistant, medical administrative assistant, medical billing and coding, and medical office technology—provide a chance for students to transition into the medical field quickly in some cases, Laughlin said.

The certified medical administrative assistant course is a 50-hour course, while a clinical medical assistance program is 120 hours in the classroom and 160 hours working an externship, the school said.

Future growth

The proximity to shopping and businesses could be a plus for the students as well as businesses in the area that need employees, Laughlin said.

“NCTC is a vital addition to this area, providing necessary training opportunities to expand the workforce base for this ever-growing vibrant region,” Metroport Chamber President and CEO Sally Aldridge said.

Smith said the college has plans to reach out to area high schools to work with those who do not have access to technology centers and possibly offer dual-credit courses.

The Alliance area will provide plenty of options, with Northwest ISD and Keller ISD within the immediate footprint of the area and Carroll ISD and Denton ISD not far away.

The program offerings are also expected to be expanded in Phase 2, Smith said. NCTC Alliance is working to add classes, such as HVAC repairs and plumbing, which could happen this school year.

“Skill trades are really on the rise, and a lot of people are finding great careers,” Laughlin said. “We have primarily offered them at the Gainesville campus. To offer them in Denton County is huge. We are happy with what the future looks like.”