FAIRFIELD — Work will soon begin to transform the long-vacant, former Camping World recreational vehicle center building into a training center for up to 400 sheet metal apprentices and journeymen annually.
More than 50 people gathered Thursday at 4350 Central Place to celebrate the occasion. The $11 million project is being done by the Sheet Metal Workers’ Local 104 and the Bay Area Sheet Metal Air Conditioning Contractors National Association.
State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson praised the project, which could be finished later this year. There are many pathways to honorable work, he said.
“We need to have education that teaches all students, not just those who are anxious and geared up for college,” Torlakson told the gathering.
Torlakson has a vision that would create more work for the apprentices and journeymen who could come through the training center. He proposed that California in 2014 place a $10 billion school bond before state voters.
“They (voters) are ready to invest,” Torlakson said. “They were ready in the last election and they’ll be ready again.”
The school bond would pay not only for new schools, but for such things as school energy retrofit projects, Torlakson said.
Bruce Word, business manager of Sheet Metal Workers’ Local 104, said the training center project represents the American Dream. He talked about everyone from young people to veterans getting a chance to learn a career and have the ability to achieve a middle class standard of living.
“This isn’t just a building behind us or training center,” Word said. “What this is is opportunity.”
Solano Community College is nearby. After the ceremony, Maire Morinec, dean of the School of Business, Technical Education and Business at Solano Community College, welcomed the center.
Anything that helps create jobs in the community for students is a help to the college, she said.
Construction has been in the doldrums for several years. But Jim Hussey, chief operations officer for the Bay Area Industry Training Fund, sees signs of improvement. His job is to make certain enough workers are ready as the contractors and employers need them and he said the training center will play a role.
“We’ll have this finished just in time,” Hussey said.
The 43,000-square-foot building is virtually vacant. About the only sign that Camping World once sold recreational vehicle accessories there prior to moving to Vacaville in 2009 are the seven RV-sized bays in a concrete building on one side of the complex.
When the training center is finished, people there will learn how to weld and will study hydraulic systems and air conditioning systems. They’ll learn about the latest energy-saving technologies that California is demanding for new construction.
The training center is coming to Fairfield in part because of the central location, Kevin VanBuskirk of Local Sheet Metal Workers’ 104 said. It will consolidate three other training centers, he said.
Reach Barry Eberling at 427-6929 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/beberlingdr.