Editorial: Peaslee good for community
photo by: Journal-World Photo Illustration
The growth at the Dwayne Peaslee Technical Training Center is of great benefit to the community of Lawrence and Douglas County.
Enrollment at the workforce training center has grown to more than 500 students and is expected to serve more than 700 students in 2018, said Kevin Kelley, the executive director. That number is up from 150 students who started at Peaslee when it opened in August 2015.
“We are financially stable, the building is in good shape, our assets are more valuable than anything we owe and enrollment is rising because of the many new programs we’re offering,” Kelley said.
Initially, the school began as a place for area students to take classes offered by area community colleges such as Neosho County Community College, Johnson County Community College and Flint Hills Technical College. The problem with that approach is that most of the enrollment money from those courses goes to the colleges.
Starting programs that are taught and offered locally has helped produce a stronger revenue stream for Peaslee and better meets the needs of local businesses. Programs such as auto mechanics and heating and air-conditioning classes, were begun after requests and financial support from local businesses. Other local programs were identified as necessary to meet the demand for skilled trade jobs in the Lawrence area, Kelley said.
Peaslee anticipates adding eight to 10 programs in the next year, including plumbing, facilities maintenance and residential electrician apprenticeships, Kelley said. In addition, Peaslee instructors go to local businesses to provide in-house training.
One of the keys to stabilizing Peaslee Tech’s future has been the arrangement Douglas County made to pay off the $1.2 million debt on the facility. Hugh Carter, of the Lawrence chamber of commerce, brokered a deal in January in which 12 Lawrence financial institutions bought the existing debt and the county agreed to pay off that debt with annual payments of $200,000. County Administrator Craig Weinaug has said the county hopes the city of Lawrence will help with those payments.
The Peaslee Tehcnical Training Center has made significant strides since launching in 2015 with uncertain funding and a small enrollment. The ability of the center, in a little more than three years, to more than triple the number of students and significantly increase the number of programs underscores how important a responsive technical skills training center is.
Peaslee has faced and overcome its challenges and is poised to grow in the years ahead, much to the benefit of Lawrence and Douglas County.