Magazine article Techniques

Advancing the Concept of Technology Education: The Advanced Technology Center in Virginia Beach City Is More Than a New Facility-It's a Whole New Concept in Career and Technical Training. the Project Is a Joint Venture between the City School System, Tidewater Community College and the City Itself, Designed to Streamline the Path from Technical Education to High-Paying Industry Jobs

Magazine article Techniques

Advancing the Concept of Technology Education: The Advanced Technology Center in Virginia Beach City Is More Than a New Facility-It's a Whole New Concept in Career and Technical Training. the Project Is a Joint Venture between the City School System, Tidewater Community College and the City Itself, Designed to Streamline the Path from Technical Education to High-Paying Industry Jobs

Article excerpt

The Advanced Technology Center (ATC), which opened last November in Virginia Beach City, is a rather remarkable place. It is home to hundreds of flat-screen Hewlett-Packard computers, 2,400 Internet ports, a distance-learning classroom outfitted by Compaq and some 4,000 square feet of economic development shell space. It is also the site for some of the most revolutionary and advanced technical courses available at the secondary and undergraduate level.

Shared Space

The $22.5 million ATC is a 137,000-square-foot facility jointly utilized by the public schools and Tidewater Community College (TCC). While many of classrooms serve primarily one institution or the other, others do double duty, home to secondary students during the day and TCC students during evenings. But what is perhaps most innovative about the ATC is that it also shares space with the business community.

Two spaces, which together comprise the ATC's "economic development shell space," are designed expressly for the use of businesses. One is a large training room, the other an unfinished (but fully wired) space to be used for temporary operations by new or expanding businesses.

"We left it unfinished so there'd be a lot more flexibility," says Jerry Stewart, the workforce development coordinator for the Virginia Beach City Department of Economic Development.

The shell space will help the city to recruit new industries to the region and to encourage the expansion of existing businesses. The ATC's operating committee has left open the question of whether or not to charge rent for the use of the two spaces; the first priority will be to use them as a magnet to draw jobs to the area.

The students of the ATC are an equally important part of the draw, which is what makes the idea of combining classroom space and the economic development shell space in one building pure genius.

As Stewart explains, a tour of the shell space would hardly be complete without a look at the rest of the building. "Right away we can tour the building and see high school kids taking advanced computer classes," he says. "That's the future workforce."

At the same time, the significant industry presence inside the ATC is intended to help "encourage businesses to take some responsibility in identifying the skills they need,' says Stewart.

Some see the potential for industry contribution as even larger. Among those is J. Lyle Bagley, dean of engineering and industrial technology for TCC's Virginia Beach Campus, who is already working with such companies as STILH, IMS Gear and MILCOM, as well as with the US Navy and Marine Corps, on projects ranging from curriculum development to student internships.

Other unique features of the ATC include a spacious technology theater and a local cable station. The technology theater, which will be used by TCC, Virginia Beach City Public Schools (VBCPS) and businesses alike, features a 10-foot screen and seating for up to 250, with 65 ported seats. It will be an ideal space for symposiums and teleconferencing.

Shared Knowledge

Part of the Tidewater Community College Virginia Beach Campus, the ATC is also located adjacent to a higher education center run jointly by Old Dominion University and Norfolk State University, and just across the street from a new public high school. Together, these institutions form what officials are heralding as an "academic village."

Such a setup is convenient for students as it allows them to move more easily from one level of education to another. In addition, some students may benefit by enrolling concurrently in more than one institution. According to Dean Bagley, the ATC configuration will facilitate "a great expansion in the degree to which we do dual-enrollment."

Another important benefit of the academic village configuration is that it facilitates articulation agreements and the sharing of resources and expertise among educators and students at different institutions. …

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