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Built from a Need

Washburn Tech East connects East Topeka with county's workforce gap

A rendering of Washburn Tech East

From The Ichabod - Fall 2018

Providing more education opportunities in East Topeka has long been a dream of local community and faith leaders. In 2019, that dream becomes reality when Washburn Tech East opens its doors and begins hosting students.

Jerry Farley, president, Washburn University, became acutely aware of the need when serving as co-chair of Heartland Visioning. The East Topeka community, he said, has often felt forgotten.

“It can be difficult to get across town to attend classes at Washburn Tech, which provides enticing educational opportunities to a number of people who live in the East Topeka community,” Farley said.

In January, Washburn Tech, in partnership with GO Topeka, the Joint Economic Development Organization and the East Topeka community, will open Washburn Tech East. The refurbished 11,000 square-foot facility at 2014 SE Washington St. in Topeka, will offer courses in health care, building technology which focuses on construction trades, commercial truck driving, a GED program and ESL classes for up to 400 students.

In the fall of 2017, Washburn, GO Topeka and JEDO engaged Ketchum Global Research & Analytics to conduct a market research study. According to data provided by GO Topeka, 13,000 working adults in Shawnee County currently do not have a GED.

The market study confirmed the need for an educational facility in East Topeka. It also identified courses that focus on skills desired by both local employers and potential students. These courses are designed to give prospective employees the education and training they need to compete and be successful in today’s workforce and lay the foundation for future advanced training opportunities.

Lalo Muñoz, executive director of El Centro and co-chair of the East Topeka Learning Center Project, now known as Washburn Tech East, grew up in East Topeka and is excited to see the positive changes happening in his community.

“This will change how we see ourselves,” Muñoz said. “It’s easy to feel like nothing will ever change, because we haven’t seen that change despite talk in the past. Now through the investment from GO Topeka and Washburn, we are seeing positive development in East Topeka. People will begin to believe things can get better.”

Muñoz said the market study indicates a major interest in taking classes, but a lot of concern from citizens regarding their readiness for classes and the cost. He said when people in one area don’t have access to higher education, it’s not just a problem for the area, but for the whole city. He is excited for what the city will look like when everyone is able to fulfill their potential.

“We are now tasked with helping those individuals – helping them see what comes after they invest in themselves,” he said. “When we share those visions, people begin to believe they can do this. We already know Washburn Tech will bend over backwards for any student who is willing to put in the effort, so finding people a career that can drastically improve their family’s situation is a real possibility.”

Clark Coco, dean, Washburn Tech, said they are ready and able to provide the same dedication to Washburn Tech East as they have in making Washburn Tech a nationwide leader in technical education. A special aspect of Washburn Tech East is its learning laboratory for TRANE Corporation, the first and only one in the nation. The building is being designed as a teaching lab to provide information such as analytical data for the climate and energy control technologies program, color-coded and identifiable plumbing and uniquely-lit lights that change colors in the ceiling. This technology will allow instructors to use the building as a teaching resource, providing hands-on opportunities for better understanding of the field.

“Today’s workforce is going to need some type of post-secondary education to compete in the job market,” Coco said. “We want to be able to provide an education to all areas as there are very talented people who live throughout our community.”

JEDO purchased the site for $240,000 and provided up to $4 million for the partial demolition and remodel of the existing building. In addition, JEDO is committed to providing partnership funds up to $500,000 per year for three years for start-up and operational expenses. Washburn University and Washburn Tech will provide staff, instructional programs and the opportunity for certifications.

“This facility will allow us to train primarily young adults who are entering the workforce for the first time as well as those who are looking to improve their skills,” Farley said. “This initiative fits perfectly with our mission to help our students reach their full potential, to create pathways for their success and contribute to the region’s economic growth.”

Washburn Tech East programs offered

  • Commercial Truck Driving
  • GED diploma through the Accelerating Opportunity: Kansas (AO-K) program
  • Health Care programs:
    • Certified nurse aide
    • Certified medication aide
    • Home health aide
  • Building technology which focuses on construction trades
  • English as a second language classes


The Ichabod magazine spring 2021

The Ichabod tells our story with features on alumni, faculty, staff, students and friends, along with the latest campus news. Read the 2021 spring edition online and look for it in mailboxes in May.

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1729 MacVicar Avenue
Topeka, KS 66604 Phone: 785.670.4483