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Preparing Students for 21st Century Jobs 

Students at work in the new Applied Science Center at Ventura College. Image © Gensler

The labor market continues to demand a more skilled workforce, and it is estimated that by 2020, 65 percent of job openings will require some level of post-secondary education. While demand is growing for middle-skill workers, the number of graduates at this level does not meet the need and has resulted in a growing “skills gap.” Community colleges are positioned to fill this gap by providing employers with a better skilled workforce while restoring economic opportunity for more workers.

A notable example is Ventura College in Southern California, where the new Applied Science Center recently opened. This new interdisciplinary facility, designed by Gensler, houses a variety of spaces focused on interactive, project-based learning that supports students’ ability to collaborate, create, test and share. The super-flexible Career Lab is designed to give hands-on introduction to the functions, technologies, and tools used in applied sciences and industrial careers.

Daylight and views abound on three sides, creating a bright, colorful and technology-laden lab that celebrates technical careers. It is equipped for electronics, mechanics, hydraulics, pneumatics and process controls training serving as an open ‘maker space’ for the college. Future flexibility is built in with the ability to bring in new equipment. A large overhead carrier grid provides distribution of services and lighting while also serving as a signature element for the space. Conversely, in the darkened theater-like Visualization Hall, students test science and engineering concepts in an interactive, virtual 3D environment.

The new Applied Science Center serves as an excellent example of how an investment in a specialized learning environment can provide students with the critical skills needed to enter the workforce and succeed in a career. Ventura College is one of 1,300 community colleges nationwide that not only provide students with knowledge and skills to adapt to a rapidly changing world, but are one of the keys to a more prosperous economic future.

David Herjeczki is a design director in Gensler's Los Angeles office and co-leads its Education Studio. A design leader with a deep commitment to innovation and a passion for ideas-driven design, Herjeczki applies research, design investigation and technical integration to shape high-quality projects for both institutional and commercial clients.Contact him at david_herjeczki@gensler.com.
Deborah Shepley is the Director of Higher Education in Gensler’s Los Angeles office. She has extensive experience in a variety of projects in the educational field, with an expertise in facilitating integrated planning projects for community colleges. Deborah is passionate about creating environments that enhance student success and skilled at collaborating with diverse groups to build consensus. Contact her at Deborah_shepley@gensler.com.