Aligning needs with priorities in order to get the most from your investment

Aligning the program curriculum, the equipment needed to teach that curriculum, and the space in which the program is taught is a solid foundation for garnering support for investments

Julie Spence, Senior Associate | May 2023

Leading a significant change for your technical school is a lot of responsibility. Whether it’s renovating your existing space, planning for a new space or launching a new program, you want to get the most impact for your investment.

Implementation of a building project starts with proper evaluation – a comprehensive and reliable assessment of your programs of study. Effective program assessments measure success and challenges through data and engagement. Gathering data such as enrollment trends and local industry trends and projections informs the project’s design and lays the foundation for healthy outcomes.

Perkins funding assistance and other CTE organizations offer tools and templates for comprehensive needs assessments that can be used to establish corrective actions. Engage instructors by promoting a curriculum review which includes evaluation of obstacles, incorporates industry changes, and appraises new or different training models and deliveries. Engage students’ past, present, and future through student interest surveys, current placements, and discussions. Engage program advisories and industry partners to align students with regional workforce demand. This comprehensive evaluation establishes a set of outcomes that define success for each program. It is equally important to consider the elements that characterize success for the whole school, the student culture and core values.

A plan for modernization and growth includes a plan for the spaces in which programs are taught. Technical labs are not standard one size fits all classrooms. The amount of space needed for each program is different for each program at each school that we’ve worked with. So how do we establish what your space needs? We start by assessing where you are today – the existing facilities, existing equipment, and concerns such as safety and acoustics. It can be challenging to imagine a lab of tomorrow while confronted daily with the 4 walls in which you live. Visiting other centers or virtual tours can help open minds to possibilities. Diagramming a lab prototype or ideal lab layout separate from any building design helps define better spatial relationships and develop goals for your unique program. The lab prototypes map out every space and all of the equipment with necessary safety clearances and/or adequate space to instruct multiple students at the equipment. We establish space needs for storage, group dynamics, work flows and providing adequate supervision. Finally, we design a lab to fit your facility or building design that builds on what you have, achieves the most ideal features possible while at the same time being financially sustainable.

By gathering relevant data, you can justify your approach. By listening to all the stakeholders, you can communicate a complete picture of each program of study. By planning out all of the spaces, you can be clear about what is needed. You can be confident in your decisions and are ready to put the plan into action.

About Julie Spence

Julie Spence, AIA, Equipment Planner, Associate

603.622.5450 Extension 117 |
Julie’s passion and area of expertise is planning, designing, and coordinating complex career and technical education facilities. She focuses on the detailed layout, coordination, and forward-thinking efforts to help our clients plan for the future. She is currently working on The Advanced Technology Center at the Community College of Philadelphia and recently completed The Wilbur H. Palmer Career and Technical Education Center at Alvirne High School.