Victoria University is setting up a new learning hub that will deliver courses designed to address skills shortages as well as the high unemployment rate in Melbourne’s west.

Designed by Woods Bagot, the state-of-the-art simulated learning facility will serve the area’s developing communities and support workers transitioning from a declining manufacturing-based economy into new careers through TAFE courses that offer future-oriented vocational training.

The courses are designed to develop work-ready graduates in construction technologies, advanced manufacturing and health technologies, and health and community services.

The new $35 million Sunshine Skills Hub is funded by the Victorian Government, Victoria University and the Ian Potter Foundation.

Focused on the practical side of learning, the hub is purpose-designed to give students learning opportunities in simulation environments, fully equipped with an impressive range of specialised teaching equipment such as virtual reality goggles, robots, and computerised mannequins to replicate real-life scenarios. Nursing and community health labs, learning studios, and simulation hospital wards are provided for students studying paramedics, early childhood care, and counselling.

The university had launched a digital technology qualification last year in response to re-skilling the workforce for the changing job market. To support this new qualification as well as the TAFE courses, the new learning hub will incorporate three innovation spaces that will introduce students to agile and contemporary ways of working.

The ideation space, software centre and prototyping room are equipped with large touch screen computers featuring the latest coding and 3D modelling software, and will allow students to move freely between them as needed.

The progressive architectural and interior design of the facility improves and modernises the quality of learning, educational outcomes, and experience for students and visitors. The three-storey hub introduces spatial planning that provides spaces and facilities for students, while the use of natural materials in warm, neutral tones sets up an intuitively comfortable and inviting learning environment. The sawtooth-shaped building facade will help maintain internal thermal comfort and reduce the need for air conditioning.

Facilities include a campus café with a kitchenette for students; campus student services; staff accommodation for 20 employees; learning commons to house the book collection; IT and research support services; fixed computers; and several informal learning spaces.

Adopting a community conscious approach, the design team has incorporated new and dynamic spaces around the building and will improve the surrounding public greenery. The design fulfils 5 Star Green Star environmental standards.

Woods Bagot principal Sarah Ball said the project team drew on the firm’s expertise in education, workplace and hospitality design in its design of the Sunshine Skills Hub.

“Teaching methodologies are shifting to problem-based learning and traditional space typologies are being challenged in the design response. The Skills Hub is a series of cross-sector spaces designed to help bridge the gap between education and industry,” Ball says.

The Sunshine Skills Hub building is under construction and is expected to be completed by December 2019.

Images: Credit - Woods Bagot