Innovation Outpost upskills Amarillo

The Innovation Outpost offers both instructor-lead and self-paced programs.

RYLEE MOORE | The Ranger


Amarillo College’s Innovation Outpost (IO), is opening its doors in downtown Amarillo this month to offer in-person courses in cybersecurity fundamentals, data analytics and other courses through their “Upskill Amarillo” program.

Self-paced online courses are being offered as well for those who can’t commit to the 30-hours per week requirement of the in-person courses. Enrollment is free for one year.

AC officials describe the IO as a non-profit community of people and organizations focused on growth and innovation. During the 2018-19 school year, the groundwork for what would become the IO was laid when AC applied for and received a U.S. Department of Commerce Economic Development Administration Grant, according to Joe Wyatt, communications coordinator for AC.

Then, funds for remodeling part of AC’s former downtown campus into the IO were allocated as part of the $89 million-dollar bond that voters approved in May of 2019. In January 2021, AC officials decided to move $2,059,000 from the money in reserves to the IO to provide funding over a five-year span.

Most recently, in August of 2022, the Amarillo Economic Development Cooperation donated $3 million to the IO to continue building the collaborative lab spaces in the 30,000 square foot building that once housed the Amarillo Senior Citizens Association. The other side of the former downtown campus facility is leased to Sharpened Iron Studios and is not connected with the IO.

AC officials say the goal of the IO is to serve as a state-of-the art career accelerator and collaboration facility for industry and business. “We build and execute programs like ‘Upskill Amarillo’ to help a broad spectrum of people build the skills they need to elevate their employment opportunities throughout the Panhandle,” Todd McLees, IO managing partner, said. “We work closely with regional employers to understand the roles they prioritize, and we try to gear our skills-based programs to align with those priorities.” These classes are specifically designed to help people develop skills that coincide with technical advances in the workplace, he said.

AC’s partnership with the IO is beneficial because it gives students, residents and businesses “opportunities to gain skills through emerging educational formats to ascend to and remain at the cutting edge of new technologies required in the workplaces of today and tomorrow,” Wyatt said.

The construction inside the building is ongoing. Currently in the works are a robotics lab, data analytics lab and a robotic food hall. The robotic food hall, the first of its kind in the country, will open in summer 2023 and will be open to the public.

“It will be a great example of how work is evolving to include humans and machines working alongside one another to produce incredible experiences for IO community members and our visitors,” McLees said.

Additionally, the IO activates and nurtures the community by making technological and workforce innovation accessible to regional stakeholders; hosts events with experts and constantly searches for mutually beneficial connections, Wyatt said.

Anyone is welcome to enroll at the IO, but the focus started with people who are unemployed, severely unemployed or from traditionally underserved communities.

“We believe everyone should consider upskilling,” McLees said. “The economy of today and tomorrow requires an engine that allows people to consistently build new skills. IO is the engine for everyone interested in propelling their career forward by learning new skills, regardless of their past or current situation.”

The first set of sprints, IO’s version of eight-week classes, will start on Oct. 17. Enrollment is free for one year of IO classes. Visit for more information or to enroll.

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