Editorial: Engineering the future at CSU Channel Islands

Our world is made better every day by the "thingies" that we use to enhance our lives. These "thingies," from the automatic alarm clock that gets us up to the remote control to turn off the TV at night, are thought up by engineers, created by engineers and built by engineers.

CSU Channel Islands has identified a hole in the fabric of engineering. There are not enough qualified folks in the field to meet the booming needs in our county. So they have proposed creation of an engineering school on campus. Assemblywoman Jacqui Irwin, D-Thousand Oaks, embraced the idea and made it one of her priorities. Initial startup funding of $500,000 has made it through the first cut of the state budget deal.

That's all good news. But there's a long way to go, in a short time, to make sure the money stays in the budget.

Gov. Jerry Brown and legislative Democrats will be wrangling for the next two weeks on how much the state should spend and how it should spend it. We appreciate the governor's efforts to make sure that we stop spending money simply because we have it. 

That steadfast focus brought the state back to fiscal sanity and earned him another term in office. 

But we need to make sure we fund our future.

That's what this investment in the CSU Channel Islands engineering school will do. This idea is not simply to burnish a reputation, it's to fill a real need in our community. 

Ventura County has an opportunity to continue expanding in the field of high technology. Companies need engineers. Employers want to be assured that there are sufficient job applicants in the area to meet their needs.

The economy in Ventura County could certainly use some more engineers who live and work here and spend their money locally. The recent State of the Region report showed engineering and architecture as the third highest paying job sector in the county.

CSU Channel Islands provides a special opportunity to open doors to this world of engineering to groups that are traditionally underrepresented in the field: women and minorities. The university is recognized as a Hispanic-serving institution and 70 percent of its students are female.

CSU Channel Islands President Richard Rush and his staff are to be commended for the recognition of the need and the willingness to step outside a normal funding process to push for this program. Assemblywoman Irwin certainly knows the value. She is an engineer. Her support, even as a first-year freshman, has helped get the idea ever so close to reality. 

The final hours of negotiations on the state budget is a perilous time for any individual line item such as this. 

It's pretty easy for someone at the table to strike a pen through this budget line when looking to cut or to boost funding elsewhere.

We hope the governor and budget legislators understand the enormous value in this idea and the generations of returns this program will provide to our communities and the state.

We love our thingies. We would love if our next great thingie was created and built by a graduate of the CSU Channel Islands engineering program.