Waubonsee Community College breaks ground on new $60 million Technical Training Center

Waubonsee Community College broke ground on a new $60 million Technical Education Center at its Sugar Grove campus on Tuesday.

When it opens in fall 2025, the new 100,000-square-foot, state-of-the-art building will house the college’s automotive technology, auto body repair and welding technology programs, school officials said.

According to Ne’Keisha Stepney, executive dean for business, technology and workforce education at Waubonsee, the new building will allow the college to increase enrollment and offer new curriculums in these high-demand programs.

“The addition of the TEC building is transformational,” Stephney said at the Tuesday groundbreaking ceremony. “Our programs will be at the forefront – modern and delivering on industry-responsive career pathways that align with the economic needs of business and industry.”

While the building will house new technology and tools, allowing existing programs to expand into new areas of study like electric vehicles and robotic welding, the building will also have the flexibility to change with the times, according to Waubonsee Community College President Brian Knetl.

“We want to make sure that it lasts for a long, long time, but that what goes on in that building responds to the community’s needs,” Knetl said after the ceremony.

The building is “simply the next example” of how the college works with its industry partners to meet their employment needs, according to Kentl.

Guy Tiberio, an associate professor of automotive technology at Waubonsee Community College and one of the program’s former students, said there are often waitlists to get into the automotive program. Plus, there are a number of jobs waiting for those who graduate, he said.

“There’s a lot of people who want to come in, but we can only let in so many people because of the space limitations,” Tiberio said. “We’re getting rid of that, essentially, with this new building, so we’re able to have more instructors teach more sections of classes to get more students in the program.”

Once they get into the program, students will also have more opportunities, according to Tiberio. He said the setup of the new building will be very similar to the environment they will be working in once they graduate and get a job in the real world.

Plus, additional curriculums in topics like diesel and electric vehicles will set Waubonsee graduates apart from others competing for the same jobs, Tiberio said. For local businesses, he said this means more skilled employees.

“Because of our space, we don’t turn out enough students to fill all the open jobs,” Tiberio said. “We’re hoping that, because we can get more students through the program, we can help our local industry fill more of the jobs, and not only just fill the jobs, but get them people who are qualified and knowledgeable.”

According to Stepney, the programs going into the new Technical Education Center are already recognized both statewide and nationwide for their success.

At the ceremony, five students were honored for making it to the finals in the Mopar Career Automotive Program Bracket Challenge. The team won three previous rounds made up of 16 schools from across the United States, according to a news release from the college.

For the automotive program, the new building will increase lab space to 22 bays and four specialized labs. Bays will include in-ground lifts, double-wide doors and rooms that can easily accommodate students as they watch or get hands-on with their instructors alongside the vehicles they are working on, according to Stephney.

She said the building will also have better lighting and a more efficient flow to the layout, helping students to waste less time moving items around and spend more time focused on their work.

For welding, booths will be increased from 16 to 32, will incorporate welding fabrication and will be better suited to pipe welding, Stephney said.

The building will also have general classrooms, computer labs, office space, common space and spaces dedicated to industry use for conferences or expos, according to Stephney.

“We were very intentional about our goal for this facility to be a hub of workforce education and training here at Waubonsee Community College,” she said.

Groundwork for the new building began around a month ago, according to Knetl. He said structures for the new building should be seen going up within the next couple of months.

The college is still deciding what it will do with the buildings that currently house the automotive technology, auto body repair and welding technology programs, Knetl said.