Schools set up shop in a technology park to broaden opportunity

Call it enlightened self interest. The real estate arm of Boeing Co. is setting aside a portion of its 5-million-square-foot PacifiCenter @ Long Beach business park to encourage a program to train a high-tech workforce. Though the space allotted to the Center for Trade, Transportation and Technology is nominal when compared with the greater park approximately 25,000 square feet of classroom and workspace in four buildings it marks what regional educators are calling a much needed boost for business retention and development. "One of the complaints from technology companies is that universities don't train a sufficient number of students in the technologies that are needed by the companies," said Michael Walter, former dean and now professor of business administration at Cal State Long Beach, and a project planner. "This will bring us a state-of-the-art technology training center. It will offer students opportunities they otherwise would not have," he said. "Companies will find applicants who are specifically trained to meet their high-tech needs. We also feel the (project) will attract more technology companies to Southern California." And to Boeing's park. "While the concept of the educational program is a new one and has taken a lot of effort on everyone's part, it is an important cornerstone in the success of PacifiCenter's goal of maintaining and attracting (tech) companies to the marketplace," said Michael Russell, senior vice president of Boeing Realty Corp.

Cal State Long Beach and Long Beach City College will be the first two institutions to send students to the Center, which is slated to open in 2004. Within five years, the program will open up to students from USC, Loyola Marymount University and Cal State Dominguez Hills, creating an estimated annual enrollment of 2,000.

"We don't have enough space to offer the number of courses with the demand out there," Lou Anne Bynum, Long Beach City College's administrative dean of economic development and a project planner, said of the 500 tech students at her school. "We have large waiting lists. For us to grow, we need to have a new site."

In addition to classes taught by faculty from the participating universities, undergraduate and graduate students will have the opportunity to receive on-site training, conduct research and take part in paid work studies with the 200 to 400 companies expected to lease space within the 233-acre site.

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