7/25/17 – Ground was broken yesterday on a $1.8-million-dollar addition to Moraine Park Technical College for its new Energy Education Center. Once complete, students will be trained to serve industrial, commercial and residential customers in the natural gas, propane, and gas utilities industries. College President Bonnie Baerwald says the demand for qualified gas utility technicians is outpacing the supply of skilled workers. She says the new facility and program will be an essential resource in closing that gap. Outside the Energy Center, the plans call for building what college officials call a “tiny town” of eight shed-style structures arranged as a neighborhood. Baerwald says gas and electrical connections will be built into the neighborhood allowing students to troubleshoot problems and connect and disconnect utilities. Wayne Reschke is the Vice President of Human Resources for Alliant Energy, which donated $100-thousand dollars to the new facility. Reschke says the industry is seeing a great importance in partnering with educators to ensure a pipeline of talent. Brian Johnson is the Senior Executive Advisor with the Michels Corporation of Brownsville, which donated $125-thousand dollars to the project. Johnson says the state-of-the-art facility will become a critical source of well-trained and knowledgeable skilled gas utility technicians who will be provided living wages and benefits. The new gas utility program will begin in June of next year with graduation in March of 2019 which Baerwald says is just in time for utilities to recruit for their busy summer. The college intends to enroll 15-to-18 students for the inaugural year with an anticipated 20-to-25 graduating annually thereafter. While the formal groundbreaking was yesterday, construction crews will get to work with actual earth-moving in the next couple weeks.