With walls and beams going up, officials from the University of Texas of the Permian Basin showcased the progress of its new engineering building.

Located near the Wagner Noël Performing Arts Center, 1310 N. Farm to Market Road 1788 in Midland, the three-story building includes 105,801 square feet. The project cost is $55 million with substantial completion May 14, 2019.

UTPB President Sandra Woodley said the university already has petroleum and mechanical, but the building will also house chemical and electrical engineering.

On Wednesday, media viewed the steel, walls and spaces carved out that make up the beginnings of the interior.

The inside also will include a 108-seat lecture hall on the first floor, a visualization laboratory on the second floor and 42-seat classrooms — two on each floor, information provided during the tour said.

There will be four labs on each floor for mechanical, petroleum, chemical and electrical engineering with research labs, the information said.

Three 24-seat laboratory classrooms — one on each floor, three computer labs, also one on each floor, student success centers, 30 faculty offices — 10 on each floor; a dean’s suite, two elevators and a student cafe also will be included, the information said.

Woodley said the building will be state-of-the-art in terms of items like lab equipment.

“We also are excited that in fall of 2019 we start classes in this new building and also it’s true that the need for engineering programs in the Permian Basin where so much is happening around the energy industry really gives this university an opportunity to provide that workforce and the innovation that’s needed,” Woodley said.

“We’re spending millions of dollars on lab equipment that will be the latest software and hardware — lab equipment that our students will need and our faculty will need to do research and to learn about their prospective degrees,” she added. “We’re not skimping at all. We’re spending a lot of time making sure that we have the best tools available for our students to learn.”

Woodley said UTPB has great partnerships with industry leaders in the region and they hire graduates from the school.

“Our graduates will be connecting with them; our faculty will be connecting with them; and early in the academic process, we think that will be a differentiator for our students,” Woodley said. “There’s a lot of excitement about the building and even more excitement about the quality of graduates that (will) come out of this facility.”

“Now what we’re able to do here is hire the best faculty and attract the best students to come take advantage of all that we have to offer here in our engineering programs,” she added.

Interim Dean of the College of Engineering Forrest Flocker said the building is “kind of a big deal.”

“We started with two programs, one in mechanical and one in petroleum. They were really focused on the oil patch and the kind of workers they needed for that. But the adding of chemical and electrical has really expanded our role,” Flocker said.

“Our goal is to have a comprehensive engineering university right here at UT Permian Basin. We would like to have other programs, for example civil engineering and some graduate programs. We’re looking forward to moving to this idea of comprehensive engineering college,” Flocker added.

He said some time needs to pass to get the new programs established and growing before that can happen.

“We just need to move forward at a pace that’s commensurate with what we expect to happen in the Permian Basin,” Flocker said.

He noted that there are currently about 600 students in the engineering programs and that is expected to double in the next five years.

Flocker said it will benefit the community to be able to grow its own engineers because some companies have a hard time recruiting engineers from other places in the state or country.

Flocker said the vast majority — well over 90 percent — of engineering students, not just locally but nationwide, find employment within six months of graduating.

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