The University of Pittsburgh at Bradford will have $1 million more to help build a new engineering and information technology building.
State Rep. Martin Causer, R-Turtlepoint, and state Sen. Joe Scarnati, R-Brockway, announced the state funding award on Thursday.
The building will help the university meet its goal of offering programs that will help local companies fill empty positions — and help students find good careers in the local area.
“We are excited to be adding to our current complement of excellent academic programs two new baccalaureate degree programs: mechanical engineering technology and energy engineering technology,” said university spokesperson Pat Frantz Cercone. “We anticipate offering these two new programs in fall of 2022. As a result, we expect to begin recruiting for these two new programs as early (as) 2021.
“This new project also will enable us to enhance our computer information systems and technology program, which is growing significantly and producing very successful graduates,” Cercone added.
Giving local graduates a way to stay in the area to find work can positively affect the community in many ways, according to Causer, a Pitt-Bradford alumnus.
“This is great news for prospective students and area employers who have struggled to find properly trained and qualified workers to fill open jobs,” he said. “This has the potential to be a game-changer for our local economy, enabling employers to grow and expand here and giving more young people the opportunity to pursue a well-paying career while staying close to home.”
Dr. Catherine Koverola, university president, agreed.
“This great news adds to the growing excitement we’re all experiencing on our campus as we prepare for the upcoming academic year and welcome a new freshman class,” she said. “We are profoundly grateful for the continuing support of Sen. Joe Scarnati and Rep. Marty Causer and for their latest efforts to secure additional funds for these important academic programs.”
According to a press release from the offices of Scarnati and Causer, the proposed building will include engineering labs and shops; computer labs such as a virtual reality lab and a systems networks and projects (SNAP) lab; the campus IT hub; classrooms and offices.
From the new building — expected to be about 36,850 square feet in size and located adjacent to the Hanley Library on campus — students will learn the skills needed to fill local jobs.
Cercone noted the project has given the university a chance to have a meaningful partnership with local companies.
She explained, “Throughout this process, we have received tremendous support from several local and regional businesses and industries that have offered their expertise, and we look forward to collaborating with them even more as we get closer to the programs’ launch.”
The funding will be in addition to $2 million in state funding for the project awarded in 2018. Lawmakers say they will continue to advocate for more funding to meet the cost of the project.
Currently, the university is anticipating it will fund most of the $22 million project cost, according to the lawmakers’ press release.
“This is an outstanding investment in the future of our region,” Scarnati said. “The funding will be a tremendous asset and help to ensure that we are in a better position to keep our young people here, as we work to retain the manufacturing jobs we have and also recruit new opportunities.”
The university’s funding application indicated the building could be completed as soon as summer 2021, but a project of this size has many moving parts, making a set schedule difficult to pin down.
“This STEM building project is a large and complex one that will need to proceed through various stages of reviews and approvals before construction can begin,” Cercone explained. “We’ll soon be starting the design phase, which typically takes about a year to complete.”
Even before anyone graduates from the new programs, officials anticipate the creation of employment opportunities through the project.
According to the release from Causer and Scarnati, “Officials expect the project to create construction jobs as well as 10 new permanent faculty and staff jobs associated with teaching and supporting the academic programs. Additionally, 24 teaching jobs will be retained through the project.”
Officials expect an average of 50 students coming to the campus for the new programs annually, with about 200 students expected to be in the new programs after the fourth year, the release indicated.
“According to the state Department of Labor and Industry, students studying these majors will graduate into rapidly growing career fields,” the press release stated.
Lawmakers authorized the funding in the Capital Budget Project Itemization Act.