“To support workforce needs and the economic success of residents, California invests heavily in access to education beyond high school … By understanding how best to target these investments, California can build training programs that offer the greatest benefit to workers and employers.”
That’s the beginning of a new report from the Public Policy Institute of California (PPIC), called “Improving Career Education Pathways Into California’s Workforce.”
The challenge, it says, is steep. Many industries like leisure, hospitality, and retail, are recovering slowly from the pandemic - and the employees in those industries are living on the edge of displacement. They need career education, and they need it to be accessible, flexible, and available when they are, whether that’s between shifts or taking care of elderly family members, or after their kids go to bed.
Meeting students where they are
“For students seeking skills to help them enter or advance in the labor market, the time it takes to earn credentials is a critical consideration,” the report says. “Workforce development partners and employers identified a need for community college programs that are more flexible, especially for working adults. The semester and quarter system that dictates most coursework is a different timeline than many employers face for hiring and/or training incumbent workers. But additionally, workers who need training often have irregular schedules and multiple demands, which makes even the day-to-day timing of course offerings a major challenge.”
The report continues, noting that Community colleges are the most effective driver of “effective and equitable” adult education that we have, and they also serve populations with the fewest resources and greatest need. What these students need, the PPIC says, are community college options that provide access to technology, are career focused, and that are completable both on the student’s schedule and much faster than a conventional education.
Flexible, student-focused programs
California’s potentially displaced workers, the PPIC says, need:
- More support, and new kinds of support, as they engage in their career education
- Educational institutions that address equity gaps and include the traditionally excluded
- Programs that better understand their unique needs and challenges, and work to address them
- Colleges that coordinate closely with employers and state employment agencies
- Opportunities that are available statewide, so that no one falls through the cracks just because of where they live
That’s the Calbright model. We are statewide, flexibly paced, career focused, designed to get students their industry valued credentials in as short a time as their lives allow, and we offer significant learner support: from academic coaching to career counseling. It’s both online and high touch, and also currently free for Californians.
The PPIC notes this directly, citing a 2021 state auditor’s report which “highlights the potential of Calbright to fulfill the need for flexible postsecondary education options for California adults who face barriers to attending traditional community colleges.”
The potential benefits to Californians, the PPIC says, are real: students who complete career education credentials at community colleges tend to benefit significantly. Other reports have found the same thing.
There’s a lot to do to fulfill California’s long-standing ethos that opportunity should be available for all who seek it. And we’re helping people from every part of the state who seek a better life for themselves and their families.