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Hoping to offer local high school graduates a debt-free alternative to college, a nonprofit organization is proposing to construct a state-of-the-art vocational training facility on a 6.2-acre lot in north Santa Maria.

The project — which will be a roughly 35,000-square-foot, two-story structure built on a lot adjacent to Boomers! on Preisker Lane — is being organized by Community Carpenters, a nonprofit that has no financial relationship to the Local 805 Carpenters Union, said Manley McNinch, who chairs the Community Carpenters board of directors.

The facility, which will be made in a concrete tilt-up process, will be around 30 feet tall. 

“It’s going to be for the purpose of providing pre-apprenticeship programs,” McNinch said. “Not everyone can go to college or is college material so we’re going to offer a line to a career where they can still make a very good living and at the end of the day, when they get out, not have any debt.”

Students will go through six-month classes where they alternate between real work on construction sites and classroom work at the facility, McNinch said. Students graduate from the program in four years and learn concrete formwork, metal stud/drywall framing, building scaffolding and other construction-related skills.

While the majority of the training offered will be in construction-related trades, the nonprofit also hopes to offer CPR and other first aid classes.

McNinch said students should be able to earn annual salaries of around $70,000 or more when they finish the training program.

“When they’re done, they’ll have been trained on the job and in the classroom for four to five years and have 5,000 hours of training,” said Scott Zimmerman, who serves on the Community Carpenters board of directors. “What we’re after is a skilled and trained workforce.”

The proposal was discussed at the Santa Maria Planning Commission during a study session last month, and will go before the Planning Commission for its final confirmation next week, McNinch said.

McNinch said the organization will begin clearing trees and foliage from the project site, which was once an RV lot, this month. The organization tentatively hopes to break ground before the end of 2018 and to have the facility completed in around two years.

“We’re doing this for the community,” McNinch said. “It’s going to open up a lot of possibilities, especially for the underprivileged that normally don’t have good opportunities in life. I’ve had a great life in construction and I never went to college. I’ve done pretty well and I want to make sure other people have that opportunity.”

“We want to show that this is a pathway to a better future,” Zimmerman said. “Working with your hands is a career.”

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Razi Syed covers Santa Maria City Government for Lee Central Coast Newspapers.  Follow him on Twitter @razisyed

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