BENTON, Ark. — An education center in Saline County is bringing together students from half a dozen different districts.
The center has a big task with an even bigger mission: providing the right tools and training to prepare high school students for real jobs in the real world.
In December 2019, construction started on the Saline County Career Technical Education Center. The 134,000 square foot facility is located on Mountain View Road in Benton, along Interstate 30.
Ted Garrison, project manager with CDI Contractors, said the building itself will act as a teaching tool.
"They're not only just learning by the books, but can actually look up and see exactly what the functionality of what the facility is going to be from mechanical, electrical, plumbing, fire protection standpoint," he said.
Each day, the center will house 1,400 students from six school districts — Benton, Bryant, Bauxite, Harmony Grove, Glen Rose, and Sheridan.
"What an amazing, amazing accomplishment by these school districts to be able to work together and come up with how they want to build the future of Saline County," Garrison said.
Students will learn skills in ten career fields, including health sciences, information technology, automotive repair, welding, and construction.
"If I have a really bad day or sad day, I can come in here and let it all out on pieces of wood," Benton High School carpentry student Garrett Davis said.
Davis, a senior at BHS, will graduate before the new center opens. However, he and his classmates realize the impact it could have on younger students.
"These classes help you learn some of the tools," Jackson Drewry said. "You get started early you get a huge head start."
Isabella Bradley, a spokesperson for Benton Public Schools, called construction of the CTE Center "a big deal" for Saline County.
According to Bradley, students in seven of the school's ten programs will graduate with a certification.
"They won't have to go to post-secondary education," she said. "They can stay right here. They'll have that certification and they can continue right into the job force."
The CTE Center is on track for an August opening. It is funded by a countywide tax approved by voters in 2018.