Not everyone has the opportunity or inclination to go to college to prepare for a “white collar” job. Fortunately, there is an alternative education that provides students with careers or professions that are traditionally non-academic and directly related to a trade, occupation or “vocation” in which the learner participates.

We are fortunate to have such a low-cost training program right here in Venice. The Venice Skills Center opened in 1968 and moved to its present location at 611 Fifth Ave. in the spring of the same year.

Although always under the jurisdiction of the Los Angeles Unified School District, the school was funded by the federal Manpower Development Training Act (MDTA) from 1968 to 1974 and partially subsidized by the Comprehensive Employment Training Act (CETA) from 1975 to 1982. Full accreditation was received by the Western Association of Schools and Colleges in 1987.

The job market has changed over the years and the Venice Skills Center is changing with it. Itís the tech classes — which include Cisco networking, computer repair, graphic design, computer design and business edu- cation — that are giving a new meaning to vocational education, now renamed “career technical education.”

Students who dropped out of school because they were bored or felt they didnít need math or science for what they wanted to do in life, now have their own chance to prepare for the workplace in self-fulfilling careers that appeal to entry level and midlife job seekers.

Students may also receive training to become a dental assistant, or for a career in early childhood education or sign language interpreting. In addition, there are basic reading and language classes and classes for students to get their high school diplomas.

A special services office assists adult students with disabilities. Its purpose is to provide the support and services necessary to allow these students to perform on an equal basis with the non-disabled students.

The age and aptitude of the students varies. Many attend to upgrade their skills or learn new ones, such as Hideo Noda, who at “84 years young” proves that youíre never too old to learn. Noda first started taking graphic design and Web site classes three years ago.

“Heís an elderly, sweet-as-can-be, interesting-as-can-be gentleman,” says graphic design instructor Robin Hill, who set up a Web site,, for him.

An accomplished artist in traditional methods, Noda has branched out into computer art and has proven himself talented in that category too. Always looking to learn and improve, he plans to come back for more classes, once the on-site parking returns when renovations at the school are finished.

You may have noticed the renovations going on if youíve driven by the school. New high-tech classrooms are being added to accommodate the change in the curriculum.

In order to make this happen, the shop building is gone. The former vocation class has not been eliminated, just moved. Mechanic training is now available at the Venice Community Adult School in the evening.

The school will consist of two structures for a total of 14 new classrooms and new support facilities. What was once the shop building will now house eight new classrooms, reading/lounge areas, faculty areas, storage, offices and restrooms.

The second building will be a new modular structure that will have six classrooms, administrative offices and restrooms.

Included as part of the renovation are new utilities, new perimeter wrought-iron fencing, and courtyard areas that provide outdoor seating and landscaping. A new landscaped parking area will increase the previous 49 parking spaces to a new total of 80 spaces.

There is also going to be community involvement to get the parkways landscaped. Phil Raider, a neighbor, appeared before the school board when they began the remodel planning and proposed this project.

“[Board president] Marlene Canter agreed to put into the Skills Center remodel project proposal water access from the property and a commitment to do some maintenance,” he says. “Itís a beautification type of project. Itís an opportunity to make it a better-looking facility.”