CCs need help to train skilled workers

California’s community colleges will train tomorrow’s workforce — but only if they get state help. So argue Angela Glover Blackwell, CEO of PolicyLink, Jose Millan, vice chancellor of economic and work force development for California Community Colleges, and Van Ton-Quinlivan, director of workforce development for Pacific Gas and Electric Co, in the Sacramento Bee.  Many infrastructure-building jobs are  “middle-skill” positions that pay well but require less than a bachelor’s degree but more than a high school diploma, they write.

Many “boutique” community college training programs are already helping build this work force. Take PG&E’s 2-year-old PowerPathway effort, which works with community colleges to develop industry-advised curriculum for career pathways. More than half of the program’s graduates have been women and people of color – but it will have difficulty scaling up and serving all the students it could without more support from the state.

Other infrastructure leaders are also recognizing community colleges as the most effective path to finding and training skilled workers. East Bay Municipal Utility District and Southern California Edison – both members of the California Energy & Utility Workforce Consortium – have collaborated with local community colleges to evolve curriculum to better train workers in the energy and water industries.

California must: recruit faculty from the infrastructure sector; scale up proven technical programs; strengthen the basic skills, financial aid and other academic supports vulnerable students need to succeed; create national industry-recognized credentials that are portable state-to-state and institution-to-institution, and improve completion rates for community college students  in career technical education programs.

This will be tough to do given the state’s budget crunch.