As the Kern Community College District (Kern) continues to develop successful career pathways for non-traditional students, one consistent theme that emerges is the need to develop a range of work-based learning opportunities into the learning experience. By earning and learning through on-the-job training programs, students are able to support themselves and their families while developing important job skills, life skills, and simultaneously creating relationships with future employers.
The gold standard for work-based learning opportunities are our existing apprenticeship programs with the building trades, which equip laborers with complex skills that can immediately provide family-sustaining wages upon completion of the program. These programs require standing committees of industry professionals that collaborate with colleges to oversee demanding program requirements. Governor Newsom has outlined an ambitious plan to serve 500,000 apprentices throughout the state by 2029, and the state invested more than $231 million into a Five-Point Action Plan. This plan is also supported by the California Apprenticeship Initiative launched by the state Chancellor’s office.
Five-Point Action Plan:
Supporting regional and sectoral apprenticeship intermediaries
Creating new apprenticeships outside of the traditional trades
Improving gender representation in the trades
Supporting youth apprenticeship for in-school and out-of-school youth
Building pathways into the public sector
Meeting the Governor’s challenge will require working with industry partners to identify and train for 500,000 job placements by 2029. This challenge can be partially met by expanding apprenticeship in the traditional trades. But by the numbers, it will also require rapidly extending the apprenticeship model of demand driven, on-the-job, employer supervised training that leads to job placement and advancement opportunities across a broad spectrum of industries and skills.
Community college districts like Kern are expanding our existing infrastructure of apprenticeships with the building trades, diversifying apprenticeship programs in non-traditional areas such as healthcare, supporting pre-apprenticeship programs, and leveraging our network of CTE subject matter experts through regional consortia.
At Kern, we’re aiming to make all of our programs of study incorporate some form of work-based learning experience, building on the success of the apprenticeship model as we develop other types of career training. Kern CCD hosted an Apprenticeship Forum in early December to develop solutions, as well as to familiarize our campus and business community with how apprenticeships work.
The forum discussed traditional and non-traditional apprenticeships, the role of pre-apprenticeships in recruiting workers from historically disinvested communities, and other workforce development opportunities. Current statewide initiatives like the California Student Aid Commission’s Learning-Aligned Employment Program are a part of the effort to ensure that the program of study of every student includes at least some work-based learning experience.
Beyond the building trades, there are many other forms of skilled labor that offer work-based learning opportunities, such as in the medical industry, computer science and the public sector. While many medical education degrees require students to work dozens of hours in a clinical setting, medical professionals don’t tend to think of their on-the-job training as an apprenticeship, per se, but as “clinical rotations” in the hospitals. There are also a wide variety of careers in the medical field beyond serving as a nurse or doctor (such as radiology technicians, medical assistants, and public health professionals), and those career pathways provide work-based learning opportunities, as well. Skilled professionals in cybersecurity, computer programming, and website design are in high demand, and apprenticeship programs such as those offered by Bitwise Industries in the Central Valley are teaching crucial skills that are essential for the future of the global economy.
Before students are qualified to serve in some of the work-based learning opportunities I’ve described above, however, they may need to learn crucial soft skills like language arts, time management, and work ethic. Pre-apprenticeship programs are an important equity tool for students from historically-disadvantaged backgrounds to be prepared for careers that can provide upward mobility for themselves and their families. Pre-apprenticeships recruit farmworkers, justice-involved individuals, foster youth and other underrepresented groups to teach them core literacy, mathematics and problem solving skills. Pre-apprentices also get access to job shadowing opportunities in a wide variety of trades.
Pre-apprenticeship programs are an important equity tool for students from historically-disadvantaged backgrounds to be prepared for careers that can provide upward mobility for themselves and their families.
At Bakersfield College, one of the community colleges in Kern, the commitment to providing opportunities for students to learn and earn on campus resulted in the college expanding its funding from approximately $800K to over $2M in the span of five years. Since then, we have continued to build and integrate internships and apprenticeships into the learn and earn program. Now with the investments from the state, work-based learning can be more aligned with demand-driven opportunities by employers so that students are, more-or-less, assured job placement at the end of their program. I imagine that in five years, work-based learning will become a regular feature of the community college curriculum.
- Learning-Aligned Employment Program – California Student Aid Commission. (n.d.). California Student Aid Commission. Retrieved December 31, 2022, from https://www.csac.ca.gov/learning-aligned-employment-program
- (California Apprenticeship Initiative (CAI) New and Innovative Grant Program, n.d.) California Community Colleges. Retrieved December 31, 2022, from https://www.cccco.edu/About-Us/Chancellors-Office/Divisions/Workforce-and-Economic-Development/apprenticeship/ca-apprenticeship-initiative
- Laverde, P. (2022, July). Action Plan in Place for Reaching California’s Apprenticeship Goals. California Department of Industrial Relations. Retrieved December 31, 2022, from https://www.dir.ca.gov/DAS/e-News/2022/Action-Plan-in-Place-for-Reaching-California-Apprenticeship-Goals.html
- California Invests Over $231 Million to Advance and Expand Apprenticeship | California Department of Industrial Relations. (2022, July 15). California Department of Industrial Relations. Retrieved December 31, 2022, from https://www.dir.ca.gov/DIRNews/2022/2022-59.html
- Division of Apprenticeship Standards – Funding Sources. (2019, December). California Department of Industrial Relations. Retrieved December 31, 2022, from https://www.dir.ca.gov/das/funding_source.htm
- Apprenticeship Standards Apprenticeship Innovation Funding. (2022, October). California Department of Industrial Relations. Retrieved December 31, 2022, from https://www.dir.ca.gov/DAS/Grants/Apprenticeship-Innovation-Funding.html