With the goal of making technology less intimidating, the Brooks Crossing Innovation and Opportunity Center is offering residents access to workforce training and high-end tools. The center opened Aug. 24.
(TNS) — Michelle Henry and her daughter Kiara Henry saw the office building on 30th Street go up near where they live in Newport News' Southeast Community, but they didn't know what would go in it.
They stopped by the Brooks Crossing Innovation and Opportunity Center for the first time Wednesday just to see, and they walked out with information and resources they hoped would lead to new career opportunities.
Michelle Henry learned some phlebotomy basics and got to practice putting a needle into a vein -- really just a tube under a layer of false skin. Kiara Henry learned about GED programs and business management courses at Centura College.
There's not much signage to provide a hint of what's inside the building at 550 30th St., and most of the people going in are headed to their jobs with Newport News Shipbuilding. The first floor is dedicated to job and career training, wealth-building programs and various other resources for the people who live nearby.
The center had its grand opening Aug. 24 and immediately began offering classes related to job skills and career training. The center consists of two main parts: the Brooks Crossing Opportunity Center and the STEM Digital Innovation and Fabrication Lab.
The opportunity side offers classrooms, and office and meeting space for the organizations such as the Summer Training and Enrichment Program, Hampton Roads Community Action Program and the Goodwill Community Employment Center.
Centura College was on site Wednesday to showcase its programs to visitors to the center, and STEP participants gathered to discuss writing cover letters and work on research projects in their desired career fields.
"This brings a lot of resources together in one place," said Steve Brown, director of HRCAP.
Shavette Zeigler, who visited the center Wednesday and was drawn to a massage therapy program, said she was glad it is a resource in the Southeast.
"It's hard to get jobs here," she said.
The lab side is a partnership among the city, Newport News Shipbuilding and Old Dominion University, and focuses on technology for design and fabrication. The workshop-like space has items like 3-D printers and virtual reality headsets, along with tools for woodworking and a fully-stocked professional recording studio that's big enough for a six-piece band.
The goal is to make the technology less intimidating, said Jessica Johnson, curriculum coordinator at the center.
She said they encourage students to learn it's fine to make mistakes and take time to learn so they don't get turned away from STEM fields. Johnson works on making connections with teachers and schools to allow them to take advantage of the lab. Additionally, the various resources and lessons the lab offers connect to Virginia Standards of Learning.
Mia Joe, director of the lab, said some skills that can be learned in the lab connect to actual skills employed by staff at the shipyard, such as 3-D printing with metal and digital design in shipbuilding. She invited those interested to email firstname.lastname@example.org for information.
Because the equipment is high-end and requires training, it's not all available to use immediately.
Joe said training sessions will begin in October. Following training, people wanting to use the lab will be able to either visit by appointment or drop in.
Newport News Shipbuilding shares the 105,000-square-foot office building with the center, occupying the top three floors where about 600 employees work. Speakers at the grand opening, which drew hundreds of people from the area, included U.S. Sens. Mark Warner and Tim Kaine and Gov. Ralph Northam.
The office is part of the overall Brooks Crossing site, which includes the Piggly Wiggly-anchored shopping center and the police department's south precinct building.
The city has invested more than $18 million in Brooks Crossing as part of revitalization efforts in the area.
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