More than just a name: California Community Colleges redefines “career education”
Big changes are underway for California’s Community College system as it rolls out a $6 million rebranding campaign Thursday highlighting its new outlook on post-secondary career training.
CCC is dropping the “technical” part of what was formerly known as “career technical education” to broaden the meaning of a term that was nebulous and off-putting for prospective students, according to CCC’s market research.
Through a multi-platform “Learn By Doing” advertising push, CCC is aiming to change public perception of vocational and skills-based training available to Californians. This is to attract more students and get them to consider entering middle-skill careers, which are in high demand in the Golden State. CCC offers more than 200 career-focused disciplines, ranging from traditional vocation training like construction to rapidly-developing fields like biotech, advanced manufacturing and global trade.
Evolving with the times is more than just changing a name for aesthetic purposes. California is massive and its 114 community colleges currently serve 2.1 million students spread across 163,696 square miles. The state reported a whopping $2.5 trillion gross domestic production in 2015, which puts it well beyond the GDP of most developing nations.
Each region has its own particular industry and workforce demands: tech workers are needed in Silicon Valley, agricultural workers are needed in California’s central region and so forth.
And despite the state’s pioneering efforts in information and automation technology, which affects all industries, the one-size-fits-all system did not allow individual schools to become industry-aligned and put them at risk of obsolescence.
As it stood, CCC recognized that if it did not adapt, it would fail future students and employers. The school system wasn’t doing enough to communicate the rising profile of middle-skilled jobs or developing curricula that could evolve with the new economy to fulfill them. According to the CCC, by 2025 nearly 30 percent of all California jobs will require some sort of post-secondary degree, certification or credential. As the value of post-secondary education increases for maintaining a strong economy, the direct threat of a skills gap could undermine everything if CCC could not supply a well-trained workforce.
That is why the CCC convened the Task Force on Workforce, Job Creation and a Strong Economy (Strong Workforce Task Force) which made 25 recommendations in its final report released in 2015. Today’s rebranding event at the State Capitol in Sacramento is the fulfillment of the task force’s 17th recommendation, calling for strengthening “communication, coordination, and decision-making between regional CTE efforts and the colleges to meet regional labor market needs.” This follows a $200 million increase in funding to all community colleges which was passed by the state legislature in June.
The budget boost and focus on “career education” is just the start of what promises to be a major educational overhaul for California and could potentially lead to further redevelopment of community colleges nationwide. In addition to today’s rebranding, the Task Force advocated decentralizing decision-making coming from Sacramento so individual colleges are given the power to develop and maintain innovative career training programs and facilities to match their region. All of this is backed by a push for more data-driven analysis to streamline the CCC system to make it more efficient for students and administrators.
When the CCC developed its Launch Board online platform to provide valuable data to students, it drew the praise of the Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce in its latest report on creating career pathways. The Georgetown Center said that California is a leader in providing data so students have more awareness of what type of programs CCC offers region-to-region and how this education matches up with their local labor market.
By making its schools smarter and giving them the funding to innovate, CCC is raising awareness of the diversifying range of careers that California-based industries helped develop over the decades. By taking the stigma out of “technical” training, CCC is showing that a graduation from their colleges are not pathways to low paying work, but to technologically advanced jobs in growth industries.
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