Newtech Skill Center popularity driving major expansion

Newtech Skill Center popularity driving major expansion

At a time when state lawmakers are questioning the usefulness of some technical schools, one local center that trains high school students is so popular, it’s outgrown its current space.

Newtech Skill Center in North Spokane works with students from 11 different districts, teaching them technical skills like culinary, automotive, welding and fabrication to name a few. One of their main goals is to make sure that every student that leaves here is ready for the workforce or for higher education.

In the kitchen, aspiring chefs are busy cooking everything from savory to sweet.

“Great food just prepared right here in the kitchen,” student Isaac Demaine said.

Demaine is still in high school but, like all the other students at the skill center, spend half their day at Newtech.

“We learn everything from making pasta to baking, to practically anything and everything,” Demaine said.

Newtech director Will Sarett said one of the center’s main goals is that every student earn at least one industry recognized certificate.

“That means more money, higher success rate with job placement and higher success rate with retaining jobs when they get there,” Sarett said.

Newtech is now set to expand with a new 36,000 square foot addition that will focus on science, technology, engineering and mathematics, commonly referred to as STEM fields.

“Eight out of the next 10 jobs in the next decade are going to be stem related and so that’s one of the things that the skill center has done such a great job recognizing is how do we prepare students not just for today but for tomorrow,” said Spokane’s 6th District Representative Kevin Parker.

Parker said across the state tech centers without a focus are struggling. For Newtech, the state will cover 90 percent of the expansion costs. The host district, Spokane, covers the rest.

“We also want our kids to get out into the industry, want them to get out into the workplace and experience what work feels like, not only here but in the real workplace,” said Sarett.

That means Demaine’s favorite dish, Melanzane Parmigiana — Eggplant Parmesan — may someday end up on the menu at his own restaurant.

“Maybe Salvatori’s, which is my Italian last name,” he said.

Construction crews hope to have everything finished with the Newtech expansion in about a year and a half.