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California offering $250 million in career program grants

Chase Niesner | January 22, 2014

State Superintendent Tom Torlakson

State Superintendent Tom Torlakson

The California Department of Education is setting aside $250 million for school districts to link high school curricula to careers beyond the classroom, an initiative designed to keep students engaged in classes often consider dull and dry, while preparing them for a high-skilled job market.

The 40 one-time grants bundled in the Career Pathways Trust – and offered in three tiers, ranging up to $15 million, are open to school districts, county education offices, charter schools and community college districts. They will be awarded through a competitive application process that includes clearly defined goals and a five-year budget plan. State officials said they expect the local programs to be self-sustaining in the near future, with funding commitments from school districts and their private-sector partners.

In a conference call with reporters, state schools chief Tom Torlakson said that when students see clear pathways from the classroom to specific, high-wage careers, they are less likely to drop-out of school.

“Students always ask: how will I ever use this outside the classroom in my own life?” Torlakson said. “Well, infusing careers into education is the answer.”

California Workforce Investment Board Executive Director, Tim Rainey, said the state is experiencing job growth in certain sectors, depending on the region: healthcare in LA County, biotech in San Diego and the Bay Area, and Agricultural Engineering in the Central Valley, for instance. He said the localized nature of the grants is designed to create partnerships among schools, businesses and community colleges that are tailored to local economies across the state.

“As many baby boomers begin to retire, there becomes a huge skills gap that we have to learn to fill quickly,” Rainey said.

Jerry Nickelsburg, an economics  professor at UCLA and author of the Anderson Forecast, agrees: “If you draw the line of the baby boomers at 1945, a bow-wave of retirement is certainly just around the corner,” he told LA School Report. Nickelsburg noted that his research shows the current employment expansion is being driven mostly by tech intensive jobs, regardless of the particular economic sector.

LA Unified’s Chief of Staff for External Affairs, Edgar Zazueta, said he wasn’t sure if the District had plans to play for the grants, but added that the District “always tries to be aggressive when it comes to new funding streams.” Zazueta said he believes the district’s career oriented programs already in place would be competitive in the application process.


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