With its bright, expansive hallways and sleek interior, the new Anderson Institute of Technology feels more like a college facility than a high school career center.
Immediately through its front doors are a coffee shop and snack bar, reminiscent of what you’d find in a large corporate office.
The $34 million facility opened to students in August after about five years of planning, with course offerings ranging from advanced cybersecurity to equine science.
The center has the capacity to serve about 1,400 students from three of the county’s five school districts each year — about 70% of Anderson Institute of Technology students come from Anderson District 5 and the rest are from districts 3 and 4.
The wheels were set in motion for the facility in 2014 when Anderson County residents passed a 1-cent sales tax to help fund it — the money in districts 1 and 2 goes to other education initiatives since they already have a career center.
Kyle Newton, assistant superintendent for external affairs, said the tax has been a boon to the county, primarily because one-third of its revenue has come from out-of-towners and 20% of the tax is going toward bond debt to lower property taxes.
“Geographically, we are in a perfect location — you’ve got people coming from Hart County and Franklin County in Georgia; you’ve got the longest stretch of I-85,” Newton said. “It’s hard to get to Clemson without going through Anderson.”
Bob Couch, who was named director of the Anderson Institute of Technology in 2017, has been a longtime expert in career and technology education. Prior to coming to Anderson, he led the Center for Advanced Technical Studies in Lexington-Richland School District 5, and before that, he was the state director of career education for the South Carolina Department of Education.
Couch said the Anderson Institute of Technology is one of the best career center facilities in not only South Carolina, but the United States.
“I’ve traveled quite a bit — there’s not a facility like this in the state or nation. This is a premier facility,” Couch said. “It’s unmatched.”
The facility has $6.5 million worth of equipment, most of which came donated from industries such as Michelin North America and Bosch, whose names are plastered over wings and classrooms they’ve sponsored. One classroom, which is used for emergency fire and management services courses, resembles a fire station and features an ambulance donated by Medshore Ambulance Service.
Newton said there are three types of students who pass through the center — students who graduate high school and immediately enter the workforce, students who attend a technical college, and those who go on to get a four-year degree or more.
“People hear ‘career tech’ and ‘career ed’ and they still [think of] textile mills,” Newton said. “As you can see, you’re not working in a mill here. This is high-tech.”
The veterinary program has an animal science facility that will house horses, pigs, and other animals on-site, and because of a partnership with a vet based in Clemson, students will get to witness outpatient procedures on-site. On another end of the center, students can simulate taking apart a car engine with a virtual reality headset before working with donated cars in a giant 6,000-square-foot classroom.
“It’s a win-win for everybody involved,” Couch said.