Monday, November 21, 2016

New $6M federal grant for colleges funds free training for skilled labor

Engineering is one of the programs likely to benefit.
Grossmont and Cuyamaca colleges are partnering with industry leaders and others in creating an ambitious workforce development program in San Diego County and the Inland Empire to educate and train people from underserved populations at no cost for high-skilled, in-demand jobs, thanks to a new $6 million federal Department of Labor grant.

“This grant will help us transform what we do as community colleges by creating high-wage, high-demand opportunities that target underserved populations,” said Javier Ayala, dean of Career and Technical Education and Workforce Development at Grossmont College.

The America’s Promise grant will fund programs that prepare area residents for jobs in industries that have traditionally relied on the H-1B visa program, which allow employers to fill workforce needs by temporarily hiring foreign workers in occupations requiring a specialized knowledge or skill, typically in tech fields.

The grant, the only one of its kind in California, was among the largest of more than $111 million awarded in total to 23 colleges, universities and workforce partnerships across the country.  Dubbed the SoCal Promise, the new initiative will recruit, train and employ those who have faced job barriers -- including veterans, Native Americans, ex-offenders and the unemployed – for careers in advanced manufacturing, information technology and emerging technology careers.

There are plenty of jobs to be had. California has the second largest number of H-1B certifications of any state besides Texas. Specific industries the SoCal Promise will target include robotics; marine engineering, or blue tech; drone technology; biomedical equipment repair; cybersecurity and computer technology.

Opportunities will exist for both short- and long-term intensive training for certification and credentials.

Education and training partners include Grossmont College, Cuyamaca College, MiraCosta College’s Technology Career Institute, the Chaffey College InTech Center and GEAR UP. GEAR UP (Gaining Early Awareness and Readiness for Undergraduate Programs) is a federally funded program aimed at significantly increasing the number of low-income middle and high school students who are prepared to enroll in college. Industry representatives include the San Diego Maritime Alliance, the Advanced Manufacturing Partnership for Southern California, the National Tool & Machining Association, California Steel Industries and the Manufacturers’ Council of the Inland Empire. As the grant’s fiscal agent, MiraCosta College will oversee expenditures.

“We believe that leveraging the experience of multiple colleges and the power of our industry partners will result in highly effective training for our students who will be qualified for high-paying jobs in our community,” said Sally Cox, executive director of the Foundation for Grossmont & Cuyamaca Colleges.

Targeted education and training programs at Cuyamaca College include mechatronics (also known as robotics), practical engineering and cybersecurity. At Grossmont College, they include information technology, computer technology, cybersecurity and drone technology.

Grossmont College already was moving to become the first community college in the region to develop a program in drone technology, and the grant is expected to give the effort a significant boost. While other colleges across the nation are offering classes in drone operations and manufacturing, Grossmont College sees its niche in teaching the programming and technology that make the aircraft function.

Tuition and fees for workforce development programs not covered by financial aid such as Pell Grants and fee waivers will be covered by SoCal Promise grant funds.

America’s Promise grants are designed to accelerate the development and expansion of regional workforce partnerships committed to providing a pipeline of skilled workers in specific sectors. Each grant requires a partnership that includes industry leaders, senior level leadership from workforce and economic development organizations, secondary and post-secondary education institutions, elected officials and other community stakeholders.

The program will further expand the Grossmont-Cuyamaca Community College District’s role in fueling the regional economy. A recently released analysis shows the district annually generates more than $1 billion in increased economic activity in San Diego County. The study found that the average graduate earning an associate’s degree from Grossmont or Cuyamaca College will receive about $492,000 in higher earnings during his or her career compared to someone with only a high school education.

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