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Kern Community College District to Build VR Lab for CTE

A $1 million state investment will help Kern County colleges equip a 30-foot trailer with augmented- and virtual-reality technology for career and technology education in fields such as cybersecurity and physiology.

A student in a classroom looking to the side while wearing a VR headset.
(TNS) — The "gamification of learning" is rolling into Kern County with state investment in a new virtual reality lab on wheels designed to deliver next-generation workforce training to local students in need of career options.

On Monday, Assemblywoman Dr. Jasmeet Bains, D-Bakersfield, presented a $1 million state check to the Kern Community College District so it can build what's being called an "economic mobility lab." The district expects to put the 30-foot trailer on the road by fall 2025.

The lab will offer the latest in augmented and virtual reality technology to supplement training in career and technology education, district Chancellor Steven Bloomberg said in an interview. It will be used in various fields of learning including cybersecurity and physiology, he added.

Calling the lab a tool that's part of the "gamification of learning," in which elements of video games are incorporated into education to improve engagement, Bloomberg described a virtual reality program putting cybersecurity students into a simulated National Security Agency workstation.

Students would feel like they're sitting at a table in front of real monitors while the program takes them through a digital crime scenario, Bloomberg said. He noted the college district currently has nothing like the mobile lab now under design.

Bloomberg pointed out students who get a two-year KCCD degree can land a job starting at more than $60,000 per year. He noted Ridgecrest's Cerro Coso Community College, which is part of the district, has applied to offer a four-year bachelor's degree in cybersecurity.

During Monday morning's check presentation ceremony downtown, he said the key to the project is its mobility. It will bring resources to students no matter where in the county they're located — or what stands in the way of their career advancement.

"What if transportation is a barrier? What if child care is a barrier?" he asked. "Economic mobility means exactly that."

Bains related this idea to her own past as a Delano girl who couldn't imagine she'd ever become a physician. She said the lab will put higher education within closer reach of local students who she called some of the brightest and most determined in the state.

"The problem is, they don't have access," Bains said.

"Our kids need to see it to be it, to believe it," she said.

KCCD Trustee Romeo Agbalog thanked Bains for her continued support and advocacy on the district's behalf. He noted she competes with more than 100 other state lawmakers to bring home projects such as the mobility lab.

"What she was able to do was a heavy lift," he said.

©2024 The Bakersfield Californian (Bakersfield, Calif.). Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.