Officials gathered Wednesday at the RELLIS Campus to break ground on the $15 million Agriculture and Workforce Education Complex, scheduled to be finished next summer.

The facility will encompass 38,000 square feet and will host both Blinn College and Texas A&M University programs. Blinn students will receive workforce training in trade fields such as HVAC and carpentry, while Texas A&M students wanting to become agricultural educators will have more classroom and laboratory space.

The official ground breaking of the site, located on the south end of the RELLIS campus, was performed by James K. Nelson, director of RELLIS’ special academic initiatives. Nelson pushed a large heap of dirt against the wind while operating a large bulldozer, as a crowd of several dozen supporters cheered.

Texas A&M System Chancellor John Sharp and Blinn College District chancellor Mary Hensley shared remarks with the group about their shared pleasure in the higher education institutions’ partnerships during the groundbreaking ceremony.

Patrick J. Stover, dean and vice chancellor for the Agriculture and Life Sciences program at Texas A&M AgriLife, spoke about the need for newer training and tools for the next generation of college students who show interest in agriculture.

“If you look at the landscape right now, the average age of a farmer or rancher throughout the United States is [about] 58 years old,” Stover said. “That has the potential to be a national crisis. We need more people who are going to be interested in agriculture as a career. The way that’s going to happen is that our high school teachers are going to motivate and excite those students to take up careers in agriculture. That’s why we’re here today.”

Blinn College’s vice chancellor for Student Services and Administration, Karen Buck, addressed the benefits Blinn College will reap from this new education complex, as it will provide students with access to modern equipment and updated training programs. Blinn students will learn advanced manufacturing, welding, electrical work and other trade skills.

Both Blinn and Texas A&M students will, according to a press release from the Texas A&M University System, also have access to two open laboratory pavilions for full-scale collaborative projects.

“This facility has been designed with state-of-the-art [teaching] and stimulation technology, with large laboratory spaces and collaboration with hands-on education,” Buck said.

Blinn College dean for technical and community programs Jay Anderson said the center will serve as a gateway for students to enter the workforce and the agriculture education profession with new earning potential.

“This truly is an exciting time for RELLIS, Blinn and Texas A&M,” he said.

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