Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Community colleges receive $1.4 million grant to improve job training

A coalition of community colleges in San Diego and Imperial counties has received a $1.4 million grant to better prepare students -- beginning at the middle school level -- for the hottest jobs of the future.

The three-year state Career Pathways grant will focus on providing training for job sectors determined to have the most growth in the region for the coming years. Money from the grant will also be used to align the training and education programs among community colleges and the middle and high schools so that all of the programs are teaching the skills that students most need to learn for the emerging jobs.

The region is uniquely qualified to establish the program because all of the nine community colleges in the two counties are members of the San Diego and Imperial County Community College Association (SDICCCA), a coalition that has existed for 50 years to work together to better serve the area's 150,000 community college students.

The California Community College Chancellor's Office challenged community colleges throughout the state to determine which workforce sectors will show the most growth and have the greatest need for more trained workers. The regional consortium for San Diego and Imperial counties determined that they should focus on training for jobs in transportation and renewables, health, and biotech, along with advanced manufacturing and information communications technology/digital media.

The grant will also be used for the community colleges to collaborate with each other and the middle and high schools in the region to ensure they're all teaching students the same lessons. Currently, a student interested in a field such as health care might find that what they were taught in middle or high school has a different focus than what their community college classes offer.

“It’s to help provide a smoother transition for students from high school to college,” said Mary Wylie, a retired Southwestern College dean who is serving as chair of the Regional Consortium for the San Diego-Imperial County region.

Community colleges will also be working together to align the programs and training they offer to students preparing for jobs. For example, biotech classes offered at all of the colleges would offer the same lessons and skills so students could easily transfer from one college to another without falling behind, Wylie said.

Wylie said representatives from the community colleges will also be meeting with businesses in the region to learn more about the training needs for their workforce. A regional committee will ensure the colleges are offering the same kind of programs that companies need, she said.

“Businesses just want us to send them good employees,” she said.

Grossmont College President Sunita V. Cooke has been working to help SDICCCA obtain the state grant, and is also serving on a statewide advisory board to help other regions create similar workforce training programs. The Grossmont-Cuyamaca Community College District is also responsible for administering the grant funds.

Cooke said the Career Pathways program is one of the many ways that community colleges in the region are working together to serve students and employers.

“Our goals are always to find new and innovative ways to help our students succeed, find good jobs, and to provide excellent employees for the workforce,” Cooke said.