Each Monday, Paul gets up and sends his younger sister off to school on the bus. He heads in to work ready to put in a shift before going to class at the community college where he is working on getting his certificate in bioscience. Taking classes on top of a full-time job isn’t easy, but he is aiming for more than a job for the next year or two, but for the technical skills to get on the career path to a more stable future.
Paul is one of the 500,000 students enrolled in the 15 Bay Area community colleges, striving to break through to a better life for himself and his family. Like many young people across the region, four-year college was not an option, but community college certificates offer an alternative path to well-paying careers that can change the life trajectory for a person and their children.
We know that only 50 percent of those students will complete their courses or their certification. Largely students on this path are not supported outside of school and have life circumstances that force schooling into a competing priority. These range from seeking childcare to holding multiple jobs, an unstable home life of living on the couch of friends or family, to dealing with hunger on a daily basis. School cannot be a priority if these major pillars of stability are influx.
If we are to reach our goal of eliminating poverty and achieving economic mobility for working families, investments in adult education must be leveraged. California EDGE Coalition is doing just that by aligning policies and investments to meet the real needs of Bay Area residents striving to provide a good life for their families.
The Bay Area Workforce Funding Collaborative, of The San Francisco Foundation, supports the EDGE Coalition with long-term core funding of their work in decision-making and policy that address the challenges faced by underrepresented and educationally-underprepared students across the state.
“With greater focus on community college and career pathway-certification we are poised to make significant changes in the lives of Bay Area residents by improving access to career pathway education and employment. New approaches to investments in workforce and post-secondary career technical education are needed, and we’re at a landmark moment.” – Lorraine Giordano, Initiative Officer, Bay Area Workforce Funding Collaborative
This means taking an approach that starts to strengthen the supportive pipeline for students before they even enter community college. EDGE had major victories this year by helping shape and ensure the passage of AB86, providing $25 million to K-12 school districts and California’s community colleges to integrate and improve adult education programs. This means starting with improvements to basic education skills so that when students come to community college they are ready to start immediately in career-training classes rather than catching up on remedial courses.
Providing these training courses is not cheap, and as the economy shifts to industry-driven skills and certificates the demand for these courses has skyrocketed. To share strategies of how to fund these high-cost, high-demand programs, EDGE held a legislative forum in the Capitol and presented at conferences across the state. Following that, EDGE was able to work with legislative staff and the Department of Finance to support and shape budget language providing $50 million in new money for technical education courses throughout California.
EDGE worked with state senators and the State Chancellor’s Office to develop and propose funding options for career technical training to the Legislature. This effort to explore the high cost of career technical education programs was a moving force behind the creation of a Career Technical Education Task Force by the Community Colleges’ Board of Governors. The Task Force works to develop a funding formula that differentiates between traditional academics and career tech education courses. The equipment, workshop space and materials are more expensive than an academic classroom set up; yet, traditional funding models fund courses at the same levels. The Task Force has been a critical advocate in making sure that the funding model works to incentivize, not penalize, community college for providing career tech education.
Addressing the real lived experiences of students attending California’s community colleges is a top priority to ensure they can succeed in their coursework and earn their certification. Working with Senator Jackson’s office, EDGE was a driving force in developing and passing SB 1028, authorizing that Cal Grant funds for career technical education students can be used for living expenses as well as tuition, making it much more useful to our State’s community college students.
With these major victories for California’s next generation of workers and families, EDGE took a final step to ensure accountability and transparency that the new measures continue to support students’ success. Beginning this year, EDGE and a cross-agency group launched a dashboard that will provide policymakers and the public critical information about the impact of the state’s human capital investments across virtually all major workforce programs. Using the dashboard leaders will be able to model, evaluate metrics to show what is working, and inform decision-making for future workforce development investments.
Learn more about our work to create career-ladder opportunities across the region:
- Landmark Moment for Our Nation and the Future of Job Training
- Linking Up with Community College Job Training Programs
- National Strategy for Good Jobs Builds on our Regional Investment in Community Colleges
- More stories from the BAWFC team