Q: Your experience as an architect has included the full spectrum of workforce development projects… from K-12 facilities and higher education to major corporate employers. Is there anything that remains constant in designing spaces where people are learning the skills needed to work in a manufacturing environment?

A: Each of the three client sectors mentioned have differing needs, and therefore differing design solutions. Our K-12 clients are re-inventing “vocational” programs in the 21st century and are once again demonstrating to students that there are multiple paths to career success. Our State College clients are more community or regionally focused. The growth within their campuses and the programs they offer are driven by the need to serve area business stakeholders and supply a workforce specific to their growth needs. Our corporate clients are creating training environments that are more immersive to ensure the investment made in providing advanced training will ensure they are able to retain the workforce they have worked to recruit.

The one constant is that all of these clients respect and understand that technical learning and training spaces must be paired with environments that allow students and trainees to hone their soft skills, as well as life skills. This includes spaces for mock interviews or classes that help students learn to manage their money as they embark on high-paying manufacturing jobs.

Q: In developing these spaces, what trends do you see on the horizon? Any obstacles?

A: Everyone wants to promote their facility as state of the art, but it takes an initial investment and continuous funding to maintain a highly advanced training environment. The common challenge shared is that funding sources are scarce and are being tapped by multiple entities. For instance, our K-12 and higher education clients are competing for the same state and grant funding, often serving similar generations of students and people seeking a second career path. In response, the steady growth in corporate training centers is due in part to the scarcity of funding available to these other entities. Companies like JetBlue have opted to make a personal investment in their own recruitment and training programs to ensure they can hire, train and retain an adequate number of skilled and passionate team members to support their business needs in a growing economy. The growing trend has and will be finding collaborative partnerships with multiple stakeholders who are working toward common goals to pool financial resources and serve a larger community.

Q: What role do you think design has in the long-term effectiveness of workforce training facilities – and specifically as they pertain to manufacturing environments? 

A: Design has a definite impact on several aspects of ensuring effectiveness in training environments. First, these environments need to closely reflect where the students and trainees will ultimately be working.

For instance, the Eastern Florida State College (EFSC) Health Sciences Building has a mock surgical training room which has been outfitted with real medical equipment such as gas and light booms, surgical tables and a mechanical system capable of cooling the room to 62 degrees – which is indicative of the temperature in real healthcare facilities. We’ve also seen more reliance on virtual reality technology as a way of maximizing exposure to a multitude of training scenarios. For instance, many automotive programs rely heavily on virtual programs to help coach students along as they hone the motor skills needed to keep a steady hand when applying costly coats of paint.

Secondly, design plays an inherent role in many of these institutions and organizations recruitment strategies. As mentioned, these entities are often competing for funding or high performing students/trainees and they recognize that people have a choice in training environments.

Q: What does it mean to you, personally, to have involvement in these types of facilities? 

A: I can assure you that I learn differently than you. I can therefore assure you that the environment I need to take in and process information is different than what you need. My favorite thing about workforce development projects is that they embrace multi-modal learning and their focus is more on hands-on lab environments that allow people to learn by doing and seeing, not reading or hearing. The laws of physics are best understood under the hood of a car where energy conversion is on full display or within a flight simulator where you need to understand how velocity and speed effect your positioning. But the only way to learn is try, fail, learn and try again. Curiosity and experimentation are part of the learning process and I think this is what drives innovation and forward progress. This ultimately means people can readily adapt and be resilient in a rapidly evolving and ever-changing future. And I love any role I can play in designing facilities that can help them find their path.


Jessica Roddenberry

AIA, NCARB, LEED AP, Principal, Director of Design

As Director of Design, Jessica develops innovative project proposals and conceptualize/execute creative design strategies for clients across a multitude of market sectors, including Commercial, Manufacturing, Aerospace and Defense, Entertainment and Education. She facilitates Design Thinking Workshops with stakeholders and end users that assist clients in navigating the complex challenges.