After 18 months of construction, the new Trades & Technology building on the Mountainland Technical College (MTECH) campus in Lehi opened its doors on Friday, October 9, with a distinctive ribbon-cutting ceremony on an unseasonably warm autumn day. MTECH students created a metal “ribbon” for officials who were be-speckled with safety goggles to cut through with a plasma cutter.

“What you see behind me is a remarkable facility dedicated to upward mobility for students, the economy and our entire region,” said Terri Hunter, MTECH board chair. Hunter kicked off a program celebrating the opening of the college’s 89,000-square foot building, including space for welding, automotive technology, diesel mechanics, precision machining, information technology and web development, to name a few.

“This building is specially tooled to encourage skilled young minds and energize anyone on their path to pursue a career in technical trades,” said Sam Kellerman, representing the architects at Method Studios. “It was designed with a straightforward grid and cost-effective finishes that allowed us to spend money where it counts, in the shops and classrooms.”

According to Hunter, enrollment totals at MTECH have increased during the COVID-19 pandemic, with a 13.5% surge in enrollment from last year. Utah Board of Higher Education Chair Harris Simmons reported that 99.5% of all MTECH students graduate from the college debt-free. “They immediately contribute to the economy instead of paying down student loans, which is a truly wonderful thing,” he said.

Simmons touted the MTECH welding program, which will graduate more than 300 students a year and infuse $3.5 million-plus into the economy annually, year in and year out for each graduating class. Larry Miller Dealerships offers MTECH Automated Manufacturing students tuition reimbursement and $3500 toward their first set of tools. Diesel Tech graduates have also been in high demand. “When COVID hit, many industries shut down, but mechanics didn’t miss a beat,” said Nate Collings, Diesel Technology instructor at MTECH.

“It drives me nuts how much we spend on higher education at $600-$700 a square foot when the return on investment at technology colleges is so much greater than what we get at tradition colleges for higher education,” said Utah State Senator Jake Anderegg. 

“For every engineer from an institution of higher learning, we need 13 tech positions in order for the economy to be at full capacity,” Anderegg continued. “That happens here.”

“There are great opportunities that await our students in the IT and trades programs here in this building,” began MTECH President Clay Christensen. “Our economy and workforce need the trades. Students need the trades. We teach them to be life-long learners. Your education doesn’t end when you finish your programs here.” Christensen also noted that the trades and IT are in the same building because the trades have become every bit as high tech as IT programs.

MTECH student ambassador and welding student Ish Magetti prepared the plasma cutter for Representative Cory Maloy, Jake Anderegg, and Terri Hunter to take turns cutting the metal ribbon. President Clay Christensen confidently took the final turn with the cutter, even going over the previous cuts for a cleaner break. Attendees toured the new building, still smelling of fresh paint.

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