Kellogg Community College unveils welding lab renovations, expands as enrollment growth continues

Battle Creek Enquirer

Kellogg Community College on Thursday unveiled the results of $385,000 in renovations to its welding lab, tangible signs of the college's growing enrollment.

Facing high demand both from students and local employers in need of training, the Battle Creek school doubled the number of work stations in the welding lab at its Regional Manufacturing Technology Center on Hill Brady Road and revamped the lab's air-handling equipment. That work was mostly completed on Thursday.

That news came as the college reported enrollment holding steady for the spring semester after breaking records in the fall with a 14 percent enrollment jump over fall 2009. The Michigan Community College Association says enrollment is up statewide as people look to more affordable community colleges to boost their skills and become more marketable in a tough economy.

According to enrollment data provided by the school, KCC picked up about 4,000 additional students over the last year.

Welding, along with nursing and information technology, remain KCC's fastest-growing programs, spokeswoman Nicole Finkbeiner said.

While the college touted its enrollment gains, it was unclear what kind of impact those numbers would have on the local economy. A lot of students are going in; the problem is finding a place to put them when they leave the college, especially blue-collar scholars.

While Michigan's unemployment rate dropped in December to its lowest rate in nearly two years, it's still among the highest in the nation at 11.7 percent. The Michigan Department of Energy, Labor & Economic Growth predicts double-digit growth in the nursing industry over the next five years, but only minimal gains in welding fields in that time.

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