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CTE case study: Small city plans for a big education

February 10, 2022

By Theo Pappas

Leveraging industry and community for a landmark career and technical education facility in New Mexico

With a population of roughly 39,000, Hobbs, New Mexico, is a small city with big plans to prepare students for careers that support the local economy. Career and technical education (CTE) programs throughout the country have seen growth as cities like Hobbs are working to retain students after graduation and lessen the local workforce skills gap. They’re doing this through strategic partnerships between educational programs and local employers and businesses. These groups are working together to provide the academic, technical, and workforce skills necessary for students to pursue entry-level careers or continue with post-secondary education that will ultimately lead them into successful careers.

Hobbs has a diversified economic base, with a history in ranching and agriculture that remains active today. But the community is also home to some of the largest oil and gas reserves in the world. It is also one of the fastest growing areas in the United States for nuclear, biofuels, and wind and solar energy sources. In 2018, nearly 17% of Hobbs’ citizens were employed in the mining, quarrying, and oil and gas extraction sector. Compared to other places, the city has a much higher percentage of residents working in construction, oil and gas extraction, and transportation, with leading employers within the Permian Strategic Partnership including large national energy companies such as XTO Energy, Chevron, and Occidental Petroleum Corp., a plethora of local rigging and drilling companies, along with various construction companies.

The Hobbs Municipal Schools new career and technical education facility will provide students with hands-on training and education that aligns with specific regional industry and growing workforce needs.

Hobbs Municipal Schools (HMS) is playing an essential role in aligning educational programs with regional workforce demand. Our team first met HMS after presenting at an industry conference about the successful work we did in partnership with Genesee Career Institute in Flint, Michigan. Shortly after being introduced, we found our experienced CTE design team at the table with school leadership and local partners envisioning opportunities to better connect educational offerings and training with local businesses through a new regional CTE facility.

Planning a bright future

Growing together makes sense, and HMS was determined to find a new path to success for its students. Finding and working in close partnership with like-minded groups is key to success. For Hobbs, the process started when our design team facilitated discussions between potential partners, business and community leaders, educators, and other stakeholders to understand and envision how a regional CTE facility could benefit the greater community.

Could this diverse group find common ground to grow together? It quickly became clear to all that the project could be an economic catalyst, transforming the pathways forward for students, businesses, and community members for generations. That’s the beauty of CTE projects.

HMS found strong support in the community for a CTE facility, and strong capital partners in City of Hobbs, Lea County, the Permian Strategic Partnership, JF Maddox Foundation, and the Daniels Fund, along with educational alignment with the New Mexico Junior College. Bonded by the core values of providing opportunities for students that would allow them to be successful in their choice of career or higher education, the team moved forward in its plans to realize a new CTE facility that is more than just a building but also a transformation of culture.

Hobbs, New Mexico, has a higher percentage of residents working in construction, extraction, and transportation compared with other communities. These career pathways are a point of focus in the new CTE facility.

What makes this building special

Strong input from HMS and its development partners shaped a comprehensive vision for the new CTE facility. While New Mexico CTE programs include the full array of 16 career clusters, or focused pathways for education, the Hobbs CTE programs supplement students’ core classes with hands-on training and education that align with specific regional industry and growing workforce needs. Those include architectural design, construction, metal manufacturing, energy, automotive repair and maintenance, heavy vehicle repair and maintenance, information technology, STEM, hospitality, and culinary arts.

Now imagine the types of spaces required to give students the hands-on training and academic background needed to prepare for jobs in such a diverse set of career pathways. The facility needs to support welding, culinary training with a production kitchen, a robotics lab, diesel engine repair lab, and a digital media studio. 

Finding and working in close partnership with like-minded groups is key to success.

Figuring out how to put all these programs into one facility can be challenging. After completing a full planning analysis, our design team determined a two-story building—with two academic wings, connected on the second level by an “innovation bridge”—was the path forward. The innovation bridge, based on the highly successful Innovation Zone developed for the Genesee Career Institute in Michigan, while functionally serving to connect the two wings of the facility, it also acts as a flexible open space that provides many options for group learning, small team collaboration, lectures, and special displays.

The ground level includes administrative spaces but also supports shop spaces with large garage doors that open to a central work yard. Here students can tinker, learn by doing, and complete their projects. Visibility to this space from various locations contributes to the learning environment. Students are a part of the process, whether active or passive. Moving up to the second floor, classrooms support programs in the shop spaces below. You’ll also find specialty spaces and equipment to support studies in information technology, as well as an energy lab, robotics lab, culinary labs, a café, and open learning spaces.

The new CTE facility will serve as a gateway to the 39,000-resident community.

Building a legacy

Thanks to regional oil and energy industry production, the City of Hobbs has funded several top-notch facilities that have shaped the community’s sense of place and identity. The most recent building, prior to the CTE facility, is a community athletic facility that provides a gateway and a sense of arrival into the city from surrounding towns in New Mexico along the main highway.

The new CTE center, and its site, builds upon this important community identity. This decision was as important as the educational programs going into the building. In partnership, the development group agreed that the new center will serve not only as an educational space for the school district but also a new gateway for the city along the other main highway coming from Texas. We’re honored to add this level of importance to the project to create a timeless and lasting icon that truly represents the power of communities partnering with education for a bright future.

  • Theo  Pappas

    Theo has planned and designed a multitude of successful and award-winning projects throughout his 30-year career, and he’s truly passionate regarding design for education.

    Contact Theo
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