Connecting education, workforce, real-time dollars key to economic growth

April 02 2022

Connecting education, workforce, real-time dollars key to economic growth

Daily Republic By 

FAIRFIELD — An automobile manual requires reading skills that are higher than entry-level college abilities – and it is layered in technology, math and other academic competence.

But a future auto mechanic does not necessarily need to go to college. The same can be true for nursing and other medical professions.

In fact, there is a growing number of high-paying job and career opportunities for which the traditional college education is not required, but they do require skills that need a more rigorous academic platform than offered right now at traditional high schools.

Mike Silva, a Vacaville councilman, took that thought a step further by asking the speakers in a Solano EDC-hosted virtual forum on “Educating Tomorrow’s Workforce” whether that platform needs to be built at the elementary schools.

There was no immediate answer to that question, but there was a concluding thought.

“We have to prepare our students for jobs that are not even created yet,” Solano County Superintendent of Schools Lisette Estrella-Henderson said as the 90-minute forum came to an end.

Along with Estrella-Henderson, the event featured John Garcia III, a senior adviser at the U.S. Department of Education, Cami Anderson, chief executive officer of Third Way Solutions, and Kelley Birch, director of Career and College Readiness at the Solano County Office of Education.

U.S. Rep. John Garamendi, D-Walnut Grove, also made remarks about the need for educational institutes to prepare students for the growth in job opportunities, from health care to bio-agriculture manufacturing to the nearly 3,000 jobs expected to be created with the refurbishing of the Mare Island dry docks. Elsa Flores, the Public Affairs director for Kaiser Permanente, which sponsored the forum, also spoke,

Chris Rico, the newly hired president and chief executive officer for the Solano Economic Development Corp., facilitated the discussion.

It was also made clear that with American Rescue Plan Act funding and other resources pouring into the public coffers right now, there has never been a greater opportunity to invest in the future – including the future of students.

To fail to do so, Anderson said, could be catastrophic for future funding chances.

“We better have a good story to tell about what we did with the money,” Anderson said.

The forum focused largely on Career Technical Education and how that concept must evolve from its 20th century syllabus to focus on the future.

The standards have to rise to the K-12 systems teaching personal success skills, that students cannot be labeled based on lacking skills that can be taught, that the environments are positive and enriching, and that the skills are not just tailored for entry level work, but the kind of jobs that can generate even more opportunities and wealth.

She used an example of using a Duke University Business School curriculum at Rikers Island jail in New York, a heady offering to individuals who are not typically viewed in that context.

“I’ve never seen more engagement,” Anderson said. “That one move turned on the lights.”

Similar responses have been found at the Solano County Probation Department with its educational and trades-based work programming.

In other words, give students an opportunity to succeed and they will.

Solano County schools are working in that direction, creating curricula in which students can earn community college credits as they work toward graduation and closing the gap on professional certification, or if desired, more education.

There are 19 work-path curricula with 52 courses, as well as some worksite visits, that are available to expose students to possible career fields.

But the speakers agreed that industry sectors need to invest in these programs to ensure they have the workforce they need. Nonprofits and philanthropic investment also is needed.

And there must be a concerted effort to lift those students in the most disadvantaged communities, and not to leave individuals with disabilities behind either.

“A skilled workforce is critical for our community and our economy,” Rico said.

Article in the Daily Republic