A new $18.1 million state grant to the San Diego and Imperial counties region will be used to better prepare high school and college students for the workplace and offer paid internships that lead to high- paying careers. With companies around the region struggling to find skilled workers, the project aims to build a diverse pipeline of qualified workers to fill labor shortages now and in the future.
The funding will go to a new collaborative in the two counties made up of representatives from education, workforce and economic development, and industry. It includes 17 school districts, the 10 community colleges in the region, along with San Diego State University, California State University San Marcos, and the University of California at San Diego.
The four-year grant will focus on students in four key career paths: business; computing and engineering; health; and education. More than 107,000 students participate in those pathways in the region, including 79,000 students enrolled in those programs at community colleges, and almost 16,000 in the university systems. There are nearly 250 programs in these pathways at regional high schools.
Dr. Sunny Cooke, chair of the San Diego and Imperial Counties Community College Association (SDICCCA) and superintendent/president of MiraCosta College, explains how the members of the collaborative want to build a talent pipeline in the career paths so that employers will have a wealth of well-trained potential employees.
“We are prepared to expand and strengthen our work together to ensure we create opportunities for our diverse population to access high demand jobs. We want to make the education system more welcoming, supportive and inspiring so that promising young people in our region have the education and experience they need to lead our region into a prosperous future,” said Cooke.
The collaborative will focus on increasing high schoolers preparedness for college and the numbers of students going to college, particularly for Latinx and Black students who are more likely to drop out of high school and less likely to seek higher education than white students. Ultimately, the goal is to increase representation of Latinx and Black professionals in the workforce, increasing access to high- wage, high-demand careers.
Among the planned actions are embedding work-based learning into students’ coursework, strengthening student supports, and providing improved advising.
In Imperial County, business leaders working on development of the Lithium Valley have already connected to the project. “This grant will ensure that curriculum being developed at Imperial Valley College is properly aligned with the anticipated needs of lithium producers and will provide Imperial Valley College students the opportunity to be placed in paid internships with lithium providers and other related industries in business, engineering, computing, health and education to receive valuable hands-on and practical experiences to connect academic and work experiences,” explains Dr. Lennor Johnson, superintendent/president at Imperial Valley College.
The grant money will also be used to fund paid internships for students in the four career pathways.
Dr. Lynn Neault, chancellor of the Grossmont-Cuyamaca Community College District, which is administering the grant on behalf of the region, said the paid internships will encourage more businesses to hire interns. “We’re going to build out a culture in San Diego and Imperial counties, so employers are actively involved in training the next generation of workers,” said Neault.
Several major businesses in the area are part of the collaborative board and are guiding the project. Those companies include Bank of America, Rady Children’s Hospital, and Illumina.
“We’re going to build out a culture in San Diego and Imperial counties, so employers are actively involved in training the next generation of workers,” explains Neault.
The San Diego and Imperial Counties Community College Association is a collaboration between the six community college districts in the two-county area. SDICCCA comprises the community colleges in the two-county region that together serve more than 230,000 students. SDICCCA collaborates closely with San Diego State University, UC San Diego, Cal State San Marcos, the San Diego Workforce Partnership, and other regional partners. Together, the districts and partners focus on developing and maintaining effective programs that ensure student success, serve the community, and train workers with up-to-date job skills.