While its higher-education system remains far short of optimal funding, California’s improved budget prospects are creating niche opportunities aimed at vocational and technical training.
A trio of projects, two from Ventura County and one from San Luis Obispo, are among the 39 winning proposals for a one-time $250 million competitive grant program offered through the Superintendent of Public Instruction’s office.
There were 123 applications for the program, which means the Tri-Counties for once batted above its weight when it comes to competing for statewide funds.
By far the largest grant in the region will be a $31.2 million program developed through the Ventura County Community College District. It will develop programs to speed students along 62 career pathways and involve a number of school districts. The Workforce Investment Board is also a participant along with some 50 corporate partners including Haas Automation, Ventura County Lodging Association and Limoneira Co.
“The largest-scale collaboration of this kind” in Ventura County, is the way that Tiffany Morse of the Ventura County Education Office describes the grant.
A unique partnership with Channel Islands Aviation will create a program for students to learn to build and fly unmanned aerial vehicles.
In addition, Oxnard Union High School District will receive $6 million to beef up its career education offerings. And Cuesta College and the San Luis Obispo school district are teaming up for a $600,000 career training program.
These career-education education programs will help fill enormous gaps in the region’s workforce as baby boomers with technical expertise retire, taking their specialized knowledge with them. It also will assist communities such as Santa Paula and Oxnard create paths for children from farmworker families to receive skills training and move up the economic ladder.
Yes, this is a one-shot effort brought about by the stock market gains that have fueled a tax bonanza for California, and we won’t know the results for years to come. But as a competitively-driven down payment on the state’s future workforce, it looks like a wise investment.