After almost two and a half years, the Kern High School District's Career Technical Education Center, located adjacent to Independence High School, is nearing completion.
It'll take some time for students to get the hands-on learning they're used to — the district will begin the school year in a virtual format on Aug. 24 — but once they return, students will have access to some of the latest technology, gadgets and other equipment used in their industries.
"It's a bummer; we want to to have the kids here," Principal Brian Miller said Friday morning at the new CTEC location.
Over the past few years, the career technical education program has grown in the district, including the expansion of programs offered at the Regional Occupational Center. Five years ago, enrollment was 800, and this year Miller said the two campuses together have about 2,500 students enrolled.
When CTEC opens its doors, most programs offered will be in the medical, technology and public safety fields. These programs have previously been offered at the ROC site. Two new programs unique to CTEC include logistics and distribution and careers in education programs.
As students walk into the two-story building, they will be greeted by pops of color — blue and green are seen throughout the site — and an open lobby space.
Open to all students will be a student success center, which will house counselor offices, seating for workshops and eventually an entrepreneurship center for students in kindergarten through 12th grade. If kids have business ideas, they can come in the space, speak with mentors and put ideas in action, explained Miller.
Also located in the lobby area is Innovations Hall, an auditorium that can hold 250 seats. It's meant to serve as a focal area to bring in business partners and industry panels for large groups of students.
As part of the medical fields available for students, such as sports medicine, dental assistant and pharmacy tech, classroom and lab spaces immerse students in an actual office-type environment. A simulation room will be made to look like a hospital room, and teachers, in an adjacent room, will control robotic mannequins that students will work on.
"They're making the patient do all kinds of things, and students have to diagnose that," Miller explained. "There's a recording and it actually broadcasts it back to the classroom too."
A health care lab will be shared among four classrooms. Ten beds will be housed inside the lab space, and students will learn how to do skills on mannequins, implement infection control and, now more important than ever, how to properly wash hands. A dentistry lab is also located in the building, with students preparing instruments and taking X-rays.
Certain technology classes will have editing bays, control rooms, virtual studios, cameras, computers and other equipment. There is even an audio control room and a recording studio equipped with acoustic panels.
Students enrolled in robotics will work with KUKA robots, which are the same robotic arms found in Tesla plants, and universal robots that can be programmed to do different types of tasks.
CTEC will also have its own full-service Valley Strong Credit Union branch. A branch manager will be on site, and there will be a drive-up ATM available for Bakersfield residents to use.
Miller said the new logistics and distribution program will provide tremendous opportunities for careers, considering that "we've become a distribution hub for the southwest United States" with companies like Amazon building centers in town. Students will learn how to operate three different types of forklifts and train in safety and inventory control. He is hoping to work in internships and partnerships with many of the major employers in town.
Other spaces on campus include an outside courtyard, cafeteria and gym facility for students in the public safety fields.
Though he's not too sure when students will be able to enjoy the new campus, Miller is looking forward to the day he gets to see their eyes light up from the new space and technology available to them.
"What an exciting place to go to school every day, learn and get inspired about your career," he said. "We've been doing that out of portables, a lot of these classes the last four years out of ROC and it's been good, and the sky's the limit when you add an awesome facility on top of what you're already doing."
Dean McGee, associate superintendent of educational services and innovative programs, said KHSD "is proud to offer more amazing opportunities for students to participate in career training programs in state-of-the-art educational facilities" with the opening of CTEC.
"The district believes that every student can be successful now and prepared for the future if given the right opportunities; the district is committed to creating opportunities for every student,” he added.