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MUSCATINE, Iowa – Enthusiasm for a bright future was overflowing here Tuesday, Oct. 17, as Eastern Iowa Community Colleges celebrated with community and business leaders the grand opening of the Career Advancement Center on the district’s Muscatine campus. “I can’t overstate enough the significance of this addition. It’s a beacon of hope and opportunity; a place where dreams will be realized; where futures will be shaped,” Yuli Diaz, EICC Board Trustee for District VIII, told the crowd at Muscatine Community College. More than 100 students, faculty, staff and area leaders assembled for the ceremony for MCC’s new center. “The faith you show in EICC is an honor that we do not take lightly. Therefore, we vow to build a pipeline of skilled workers to those jobs in our region, which in turn will build careers and lives, and strengthen our communities and our economy,” continued Ms. Diaz. The new, ultra-modern $10 million center will house the college’s Automotive Technology, HVAC, Criminal Justice, Nursing, and Allied Health programs. It is equipped with dynamic classrooms and spacious labs to provide students with in-depth, hands-on training in preparation for a career in these high-demand fields. “Most importantly, these technical trades and skills being taught here are exactly the skills sets that multiple employers in the Muscatine area are desperately seeking,” said Joey Krieger, executive manager for Ed Morse Automotive Group in Muscatine. Mr. Krieger explained while every business is different, each faces the common challenges to identify relevant training needs; find time for training during a busy workday; engage employees; and to allocate sufficient resources for training while measuring its effectiveness. He believes these challenges can now be met by local businesses partnering with the MCC Advancement Center and its students. “This facility and curriculum will not only give the students a career pathway to go out and contribute to the workforce here in Muscatine but will directly connect employers and students with workplace learning, scholarship opportunities, career information and guidance,” he added. “Businesses both large and small thrive when they have access to skilled workforce that they need now and in the future. Individuals and communities prosper when residents have access to gainful employment and businesses have access to a skilled workforce.” EICC Interim Chancellor Liang Chee Wee called the grand opening “a significant milestone in the growth of the college.” He said it embodies EICC’s commitment to providing high-quality, in-demand career and technical education and training. The new Advancement Center at MCC is one of the culminating pieces from EICC’s $40 million bond referendum, which passed by an overwhelming 74% of voters in 2021. In addition to the new MCC facility, the referendum funded a new Health Sciences Center at Scott Community College, expanded Career and Technical training facilities at Clinton Community College and at CCC’s Maquoketa campus, as well as a new DeWitt Career Advancement Center. The DeWitt center, located at 817 E. Industrial St., will host its grand opening celebration at 4 p.m. on Thursday, Oct. 19. The Greater Muscatine Chamber of Commerce and Industry hosted a ribbon-cutting ceremony and a Business After Hours reception for its members to tour and experience the cutting-edge technology being used in the Advancement Center. In the health care wing, students will gain hands-on experience in the skills lab and its state-of-the-art hospital simulator rooms where instructors drive the physical and emotional responses of the ‘patient.’ Instructors monitor how the student performs with the patient and adjust responses accordingly. This not only helps students hone their technical skills, but it also helps them develop more effective interpersonal skills that are so important to nursing. “We can create any kind of scenario that we would want our students to be able to experience – scenarios they may not see out in a clinical setting while they’re in our program,” Lori Hougen, EICC’s associate dean of Nursing told the QCBJ. For example, the instructor can control how and how much the patient might cry in response to treatments being administered by the nursing students. Additionally, a small classroom adjacent to the simulator labs lets other students and instructors observe and critique in real time the action happening with the patient. Ms. Hougen said community health care partners are excited about how the training in this new facility helps to enhance what students learn during their clinical classes. She added that some community partners are excited about how the facility might open continuing education opportunities for their existing nursing staff. Meanwhile, in the Criminal Justice wing, visitors experienced a simulated active crime unfolding in a quiet suburban neighborhood. The Advancement Center’s VirTra training simulators use real-life incidents for students to learn to make decisions and critique their actions in alignment with use-of-force standards. “What a blessing it is to be a part of a community where we can educate, train and recruit young men and women into our community workforce,” Muscatine Police Chief Tony Kies told guests at the event. “We look forward to utilizing your advanced technology as we continue to train the men and women in our department and to continuing our junior police academy where our youth can gain experience to help guide them down their career paths.” As the ceremony ended, the college chancellor told the enthusiastic crowd: “Looking ahead, I’m really excited and eager to witness the success and achievements of our students as they explore, learn and grow in this brand-new classroom environment. I am very confident our students will make a lasting impact in our communities. I am grateful to all of you for your unwavering support and dedication to the people’s college. “Together, we are indeed shaping a brighter future for Eastern Iowa and the journey ahead is full of promise and I am honored to venture forward with you,” he said.