GREENVILLE, SC (WSPA) – Greenville County Schools is making huge strides in the development of its Career and Technical Education (CTE) Innovation Center.

7NEWS is the only station to get a firsthand look inside the construction of the $12.7 million project.

“This project was actually started several years ago but then COVID paused it, and it was started in response to our local industry. We know that we are industry rich here and that we have emerging career paths for our students,” said Katie Porter, Program Director of CTE Innovation Center at Roper Mountain.

Contractors are already clearing the way for the new center.

“It’s a really neat project. You know we’ve done a lot of CTE centers similar to this, but none quite like this. It’s got some really neat programs, like the aerospace and auto research stuff, but it’s also set up to be very flexible so that in the future as new things come up. They can kind shape the building to whatever the latest and greatest technology or need in the industry is,” said Harold Turner, Project Manager with Thompson Turner Construction.

The nearly 30,000 square foot facility is located on the campus of the Roper Mountain Science Center.

The building will house classrooms for five innovative programs.

“Aerospace, automation and robotics, cybersecurity, clean energy and technology and emerging automotive research,” Porter said. “Emerging automotive research will be the first in the state.”

Porter said the building is designed to be flexible, allowing programs to change over the years.

“Let’s say that cybersecurity is a huge hit, we might push that out to either our high schools or our current four career centers, and then we would bring in another program,” explained Porter. “So, it’s almost like an incubation center, where we can pilot emerging and innovative programs for students.”

According to Porter, the facility will have state-of-the-art technology and equipment with flex space where students can collaborate and “think freely and work together.”

“These five programs overlap in many ways, and so we’re hoping that they can do projects together and solve real world problems right here in this facility,” she said. “The five that we’re starting with may not be the same in five years.”

There will be modern touches.

“The cybersecurity area it’s a really neat concept where we lowered the flooring in that room and we’re going to do what they call a raised floor in there. So, all their data cabling and everything can run under the floor and then we’re going to do an area with kind of clear tile so that the students when they come into the classroom, you know they’re not just learning on the computer, but they can also kind of see all the stuff behind it,” said Turner. “They can see how the cabling runs, how it routes, how it goes and plugs in to all the different equipment, and really get kind of a hands on learning experience.”

Porter said industry leaders are on board.

“They definitely confirmed that there is a huge need,” Porter said. “There are current jobs that exist, but they know in the coming years that that demand is going to highly increase, and so we want to make sure that we’ve got that pipeline ready for them.”

Porter said high school students will be able to take classes at the center, predominately 11th and 12th graders. She said 10th graders will also have the option to apply.

Students will attend the center for half of the school day before going to their high school to take other elective classes.

“We won’t offer breakfast or lunch here, but we will have a café area where we can serve food and drinks. Students can sit. Maybe they have a coffee or a snack. Just a great open space,” Porter said.

Porter said they are ready to train students, while connecting them to industries in the Upstate.

“If we’re training them. We want to retain them,” Porter said.

“What we can assure them is that these are high paying jobs and career fields. Walking out you know we hear that from students a lot,” she said. “You know, we serve a lot of students in poverty. We’ve got about 60 percent in Greenville County, so we want to make sure that we can be a part of helping change that narrative and give all students the opportunity to live a great life.”

Porter said construction should be complete in late July 2023, and will be open for students next August.

To learn more about the CTE Innovation Center, click here.