WHY LOCAL: PRACTICAL LEARNING
| 2014 Spring | story by Mark Fagan |

Local Scematic of New Building

Think a little more practical.

Slated to open in fall 2015, the Lawrence school district’s new $5.7 million College and Career Center will be expected to give as many as 250 students per semester opportunities to connect with professions, trades and overall employment opportunities — options long sought by the business community and now embraced by the community as a whole.

Students will be able to enroll in courses offered by the district and through area community colleges, picking up knowledge and skills that translate into success. Students completing center work could find themselves furthering education or pursuing certification as a nurse aide, developing computer software, exploring solar technology, understanding HVAC systems or programming robotic manufacturing systems.

“For our juniors and seniors in high school, college and careers are just around the corner,” says Patrick Kelly, the district’s director of career and technical education. “Exposure to college classes and authentic 21st century professions will provide them the opportunity to practice and develop the skills necessary for their future. Our students understand that real-world experience — whether it be with a business mentor, a service-learning project, an internship or early college courses — will separate them from their peers and prepare them for the future.”

The new center will cover 30,000 square feet near 31st Street and Haskell Avenue, adjacent to an existing building taking shape as the Dwayne Peaslee Adult Education Center through the Economic Development Council of Lawrence & Douglas County.

The College and Career Center is being designed to provide flexibility, transparency and collaboration, Kelly says. The center will include equipment and other materials to give students access to what they need to prepare for competition in a demanding employment marketplace. Programs will be focused in seven categories:

TECHNOLOGY SOLUTIONS, covering technology hardware, networking, software, operating systems, mobile devices, cybersecurity, and emerging technology.

This program is intended for students interested in developing technical skills and knowledge ideal for moving ahead in technical development and support. The idea is to give students the tools they need, and then engage them in hands-on work to help understand what’s behind development of mobile phones, creation of Internet privacy programs and more.

Students will solve actual problems in a professional environment, Kelly says. That means building a portfolio of work through software engineering, web development, operating systems, hardware technology, management information systems and other emerging technologies.

HEALTH AND EMERGENCY SCIENCE, which includes college coursework, rigorous science content, real-world clinical experiences, industry recognized certifications and industry partnerships.

The district already is working with Neosho County Community College on this category, with 20 students already earned in a certified nurse aide course. Consultations with Lawrence-Douglas County Fire & Medical have led to plans for assisting students interested in becoming first responders or emergency medical technicians (EMTs), and Johnson County Community College is working with the district on programming.

COMPUTER INTEGRATED MANUFACTURING, a field that includes computer-aided design (CAD), computer numerical control (CNC), 3-D printing, rapid prototyping, and robotics. Manufacturing isn’t simply a matter of loading an assembly line or pushing a button. These days a production floor harnesses technology that could be on the Mars rover. And the next advance in efficiency could be born in a 3-D printer.

Kelly envisions business partners coming to students with a need, spurring curiosity within a team of young minds ready to go to work: “Using advanced tools common in manufacturing plants, students will design and machine products that will address real-world problems.”

BIOTECHNOLOGY & FORENSIC SCIENCE, a sector that spans project-based science, DNA testing, evidence collection and analysis, biotechnical processes, and research and design.

Anyone wondering just how significant biotechnology is might consider reviewing the Kansas Bioscience Authority’s investments during the past decade: $272 million in commitments to more than 80 bioscience companies, institutions and programs. And forensic science appears to be popular, too, considering that “CSI” and its spinoffs manage to draw millions of viewers each week.

Programs in this category will include coursework and hands-on experiences in matters ranging from biotechnical processes involving DNA, RNA and enzymes to evidence collection, serology and, yes, crime scene investigation.

“Students who have a passion for science and a desire to learn through practical application will not only be right at home in these courses,” Kelly says. “They will be in high demand in the future.”

LAW & GOVERNMENT, a category for students interesting in potential careers in law enforcement, courts, detention centers, fire departments, law firms and social service agencies.

With the city of Lawrence, alone, ranking as the city’s fourth-largest employer, it’s clear that there are jobs in government work. The Lawrence Police Department has spoken with the district about its support for programs that might help fill the pool of qualified job candidates.

Taking courses in this program will expose students to the inner workings of public administration and public safety. There even are plans for students taking advanced courses to participate in actual court proceedings, and Douglas County District Court is looking at the possibility of working with the center on establishing youth court program.

CONSTRUCTION SCIENCE, reaching into building technology, electrical and solar technology, HVAC, plumbing and other trades.

Evening classes in electrical and solar technology started in January at Lawrence High School, with financial support from Stanion Wholesale Electric Co. Other employers have indicated support for helping provide programming that could help meet their employment needs, with such training expected to be conducted at the Dwayne Peaslee Center.

INTERACTIVE DESIGN, which calls for addressing real-world challenges and fostering design thinking by creating teams with various backgrounds and skills to pursue digital and physical solutions.

TRANSLATION: INNOVATE. The goal is for students to leave this program with intentions for making a difference — whether that’s through digital work such as web pages, animations or software, or through physical items such as printed materials, product prototypes and business plans. Who knows where their schoolwork might take them?

“Students should be prepared to pitch ideas to a panel of community members,” Kelly says. The center’s plans won’t stop there. New technologies are emerging all the time, and businesses and industries are constantly adapting and taking advantage of the opportunities they offer.

The center itself will innovate in its education of students so that they, too, can make the
most of such opportunities — both now and in the future.

“The center will tap into students’ real interests and allow them to practice those skills,” Kelly says. “It will be transformational.” ■

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