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How Great Basin Pahrump aims to brand itself a go-to trade school

Great Basin College, Pahrump Valley Center is on a mission to brand itself as a go-to choice for career and technical education.

“I have a dream,” GBC Pahrump Automotive Instructor Joe Burdzinski told Nye County commissioners in December. “My dream is that people from all over will come here to Pahrump to learn a trade. There is no reason why we can’t have the best programs in the country. We have the capability and that’s what Chris (Salute) and I are working toward. With your help and the help of the community, we can make that happen.”

GBC Pahrump Campus Director Christopher Salute joined the college about six months ago and he hit the ground running. He is already hard at work building partnerships and crafting plans to see the Pahrump Valley Center thriving long into its future.

“I’ve been writing for years about how I think our higher education system is completely broken,” Salute remarked. “Right now, we are paying faculty members hundreds of thousands of dollars to teach students absolutely nothing… So I really do believe our future is in career and technical education, it’s in the trades, it’s in applied fields.”

Great Basin College is made up of three campuses, including the main campus at Elko, a Winnemucca campus and the campus in Pahrump. Despite the fact that the Elko campus, at 40-plus acres, is much larger than Pahrump’s, the two see nearly the same number of students, Salute stated.

“We are really focused on bringing students through our (Pahrump) doors,” Salute reported. “We’ve seen 25% growth just this semester.”

As time has gone on, Pahrump has started to take greater prominence in GBC as a whole and as a result, several key staff positions are now housed in Pahrump. Other accomplishments Salute highlighted included the addition of a new arts gallery created with the assistance of the Pahrump Valley Arts Council, along with a small gallery library and even a food bank, built with the help of the NyE Communities Coalition.

“We now have dance instruction, so if you want to learn country swing dancing or ballroom dancing, you can come to GBC,” Salute detailed. “We’re employing four new members of the community to be professors this spring and if you didn’t come to our Winter Oasis, we had 120 folks come through our event.”

GBC has several new partnerships, too, including one with ICON for international consulting projects and another of Burdzinski’s former place of employment, Oakland Community College. GBC is also partnered with NC3, a nonprofit network of over 1,700 members offering over 140 professional certifications with companies such as Snap-On, Starrett, Kubota, Lincoln Electric, Trane, Copeland and many more, a fact that serves to underscore GBC Pahrump’s goal to develop a robust career and technical education program.

Burdzinski will be taking the lead on one portion of GBC Pahrump’s expanding programming, as he is currently developing what will be the college’s courses on auto mechanics.

“The automotive service and repair program will consist of nine courses: auto fundamentals; engine repair; automatic transmission/transaxle; manual drive train and axles; suspension and stressing; brakes; electrical/electronic systems; heating and air conditioning; and engine performance,” Burdzinski explained.

He noted that even the average person with no desire to work in the industry could benefit from the first of the courses, auto fundamentals. “It will give you an overview of the eight different areas within automotive and it doesn’t matter whether you are a male or a female, a person with experience or not, and you may not even want to be a mechanic, it’s still a good course to take,” Burdzinski said. “You should know what goes on with your car and how it’s taken care of, so you don’t get ripped off when you get repairs somewhere.”

This is far from the only new program GBC is striving to develop, with diesel mechanics, HVAC, construction, electrical and welding courses all under consideration, as well as programs for industries such as fashion, hospitality, communications/broadcast and more.

“We’re telling you about these programs not to brag, because nothing’s done yet, right? We’re telling you about these programs because, with that growth, with that effort, comes a limitation,” Salute said. “And if you have been in our building, it’s a beautiful space but we need more of it.”

Community investment is key, Burdzinski reiterated, stating, “We need some support, from the commissioners and from the state for funding, so we can develop and build these programs.”

GBC Pahrump Valley Center is currently located on the Pahrump Valley High School campus and is comprised of just one building but Salute and Burdzinski’s vision is to see it eventually relocated to a 280-acre site already under GBC’s ownership.

For more information on GBC Pahrump Valley Center’s programming visit GBCNV.edu or stop by the campus at 551 E. Calvada Blvd. to discuss educational options.

Contact reporter Robin Hebrock at rhebrock@pvtimes.com

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