For more than a decade, WestEd has supported the California Community Colleges Chancellor’s Office in its efforts to improve career education, including evaluating grant outcomes, developing data and accountability frameworks, building stronger connections to K12 career programs, developing technical assistance mechanisms, and highlighting successful programs.
In 2016, the California legislature created the Strong Workforce Program, an annual allocation of $248 million to expand and improve career education in the community college system, with a focus on strengthening offerings within priority sectors and enhancing regional collaboration. In 2018, the state expanded the program by $150 million to build stronger career pathways with K12 institutions.
WestEd has helped with the implementation of the Strong Workforce Programs in the following ways:
- Identified metrics for both the community college and K14 programs, so that outcomes could be reliably tracked using statewide data sets.
- Wrote white papers about workforce outcomes and career education metrics for a blue-ribbon committee tasked with shaping program priorities.
- Lead a practitioner team to develop local and regional performance-based funding formulas to incentivize program goals.
- Supported the development of a new accountability framework that identifies earnings outcomes for skills-builders: incumbent workers taking one or two courses to advance in their careers.
- Developed dashboards that track the metrics associated with Strong Workforce Program funding, as well as showing post-secondary outcomes for students enrolled in K12 career education courses.
- Created professional development materials including websites, guides, infographics, and short videos explaining the new metrics and how to use them.
- Designed and provided training for practitioners and technical assistance providers to ensure stakeholders knew how to use the dashboards and incentive funding for local and regional planning.
- Managed a team of data coaches who worked with each college to develop plans for Strong Workforce funds.
- Worked directly with colleges to review the codes assigned to programs and awards, as well as to identify related occupations, to improve data available in local and statewide systems.
- Convened an intersegmental working group to identify additional data points that would support planning efforts.
- Evaluated third-party credentials, created a resource database showing the number of students earning various types of credentials, and helped to lead a national coalition of states seeking access to third-party credential data.
- Supported a recognition that highlighted career education programs with exceptionally strong employment outcomes and wrote case studies documenting key characteristics for more than one hundred programs.
- Summarized policy developments and student outcomes for annual reports to the legislature and presented results to legislative staff and policy committees.
- Provided ongoing policy consultation to the California Community Colleges Chancellor’s Office and the Department of Education on the implementation of the Strong Workforce Programs.
In addition to SWP, the K-12 Strong Workforce Program (K-12 SWP) is designed to increase students’ college and career readiness, supporting their successful transition from secondary to postsecondary education and, ultimately, to their living-wage career. In 2018, California legislature established the K-12 SWP, dedicating $150 million in annual, ongoing funding to strengthen the alignment of career and technical education pathways from middle and high schools to community colleges. Administered by the California Community Colleges Chancellor’s Office, in partnership with the California Department of Education, K-12 SWP funds create, support, or expand high-quality pathways and programs at the K-12 level.
California’s ongoing investment in K-12 SWP offers exciting opportunities for students to engage in early career exploration and meaningful learning in the context of workplace relevance. Building intentional K-14 education and career pathways brings a more focused direction to students as they transition from secondary to postsecondary education and eventually, to the workforce.
WestEd has helped with the implementation of K-12 SWP in the following ways:
- Design statewide communications for the California Community Colleges Chancellor’s Office use with regional leadership, the California Workforce Joint Advisory Committee, California legislators, the state Office of Finance, and Governor’s Office.
- Design and modify requests for applications and support materials including scoring rubrics, sample applications, and FAQs based on feedback from the field.
- Train key talent supporting K-12 SWP in application materials and assist with bidders conference material development.
- Develop a selection process for regional selection committee applicants, including managing application, selection, and training of selection committee members statewide.
- Maintain a database of selection committee members for California Community Colleges Chancellor’s Office.
- Develop and train the field on interim measures aligned to K-12 SWP.
- Analyze data from interim measures to provide formative feedback on the progress of all awards to California Community Colleges Chancellor’s Office, California Department of Education, regional leaders, and technical assistance providers.
- Design continuous improvement studies across all efforts of K12 SWP to ensure the program is meeting expected goals and allowing for mid course corrections when needed.