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Don’t Underestimate Community Colleges: A Town Hall in Sacramento to Align Community Colleges with Workforce Needs

During Monday morning’s Strong Workforce Town Hall meeting, Chancellor Brian King of Los Rios Community College District asked the audience to imagine college admissions as a pyramid food chart that today’s youth prepare for: at the top are private ivy league and University of California schools, next is the California State University system, and at the bottom, (above jail!), are the community colleges. Chancellor King continued: This is not the right model for today’s youth. Different types of schools and experiences, including Career Technical Education (CTE) at community college, provide excellent career pathways in high growth and well paid economic sectors within the Sacramento region.

This idea that community colleges are a dynamic and critical training ground for well paid, middle skill job opportunities set the tone for the Strong Workforce Town Hall, attended by more than 75 of our region’s business, education, government and nonprofit leaders. Valley Vision co-hosted the event, one of five Strong Workforce Town Halls throughout the state, with Sacramento Employment & Training Agency (SETA), Los Rios Community College District, Next-Ed, Downey Brand, and California Manufacturers & Technology Association.

Other panelists Anette Smith-Dohring of Sutter Health, Jason Cameron of PG&E, and Joe Wernette of Tri Tool Inc., pointed out that the ability to make quick and agile changes to curriculum is key to being responsive to workforce needs; that uniform requirements and curricula across schools are necessary; and that essential skills, or “soft skills” of communication, work ethic and professionalism, must be emphasized for today’s youth.

Oscar Chavez, the Assistant Director from Sonoma County Human Services, called for system disruption – we have to change the system to meet the needs of 21st century students. Traditional education practices are becoming obsolete in our fast paced, technology centric world.

These recommendations and more were given to the California Community Colleges Board of Governors’ Task Force on Workforce, Job Creation and a Strong Economy. The Task Force is compiling the feedback from all five statewide Town Halls and will inform recommendations for improving community college system alignment with workforce needs.

The Town Hall was an excellent opportunity to share ideas and have a conversation about our region’s workforce needs and concrete ways that community colleges can be responsive to our economy. Valley Vision Board members and staff were front and center. Scott Shapiro gave a warm welcome to attendees and explained why middle skill jobs are important to a professional firm like Downey Brand. Scott Syphax kicked off the day with inspiring words and a call to action. Chancellor Brian King described the role that Los Rios Community College District is providing to keep pace with evolving workforce needs as part of a 4-member expert panel, and Bill Mueller, Valley Vision CEO, moderated the panel and summarized the key points to end the event.

Valley Vision will be closely watching the California Board of Governors as they consider new recommendations this summer. You can learn more about it too – subscribe to the Doing What Matters eUpdates to find out how community colleges are meeting today’s workforce needs. 

Also, check out the blog post about the event by California Forward.

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