DMACC helps rural students explore career options with new regional center

By: - September 19, 2023 9:30 am

DMACC President Rob Denson speaks at the DMACC Templeton Regional Center ribbon cutting. (Brooklyn Draisey/Iowa Capital Dispatch)

Des Moines Area Community College is giving western Iowa high school students the chance to develop skills and explore a range of jobs before deciding on their career with its newly completed regional center.

Construction on the DMACC Templeton Regional Center has been completed, allowing the center to welcome 68 participants this fall semester. DMACC and community leaders spoke at the center’s ribbon cutting Monday, acknowledging those who partnered on the project and celebrating the opening.

“The facility itself is 11,000 square feet, and it’s more than just bricks and mortar and concrete,” DMACC President Rob Denson said. “It’s an investment, and I can’t tell you how excited we are that this investment could be right on the main street of Templeton, Iowa.”


DMACC purchased the building, known locally as the White Elephant, in March 2022 after receiving a $1 million Career Academy Incentive Fund grant from the Iowa Department of Education, DMACC Carroll Campus Provost Joel Lundstrom said. The front half of the space was completed in time to welcome 29 students, some of whom are now in their second year of the program.

The building is split into four areas, including a general classroom and labs for science, electric and building trades, and certified nursing assistant training. Each space provides equipment for hands-on learning and instruction.

High school juniors and seniors from the Audubon, Carroll, Coon Rapids-Bayer, Exira-EHK and IKM-Manning school districts now have access to instruction in nursing, welding, engineering, construction and more through general courses and an exploratory career academy.

During the first year of the exploratory career academy, students take classes in different manufacturing and construction subjects, and travel to local businesses for job shadowing and training. Once the first year is completed, they can pick a specific area to continue studying subjects, including electrical trades, health care, welding and advanced manufacturing, for the second year.

Lundstrom said the exploratory academy, a unique program, differs from other career academies in allowing students to get experience in a variety of fields before being locked into one path. The exploratory academy also makes technical fields more accessible to women, who historically have been underrepresented in areas like manufacturing.

“With other career academies, that would mean by the end of their sophomore year they’d have to choose which academy they want to go into as a junior or senior,” Lundstrom said. “Many of them aren’t ready to make that choice.”

Templeton has a population of fewer than 400 people, Lundstrom said, and is the perfect place for a center like this. DMACC, the largest community college in Iowa, is always working to expand its reach to rural areas, and the center will enable local students to develop skills in careers they can dive into right in their hometowns, with local partners lending a hand in teaching them.

“The Templeton Regional Center is more than just an educational institution, it’s a symbol of community, unity, and shared aspirations,” Career Advantage Site Director​ Jen Wollesen said. “Together we have accomplished great things and together we will continue to make a positive impact on the lives of our students and the wellbeing of our communities.”


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Brooklyn Draisey
Brooklyn Draisey

Brooklyn Draisey is a Report for America corps member covering higher education. She previously worked for the Quad-City Times and The Gazette covering topics ranging from business to culture.