State career pathways trust awards $22.2 million for North Bay schools

NORTH BAY -- Millions of dollars in new funding will flow to dozens of schools in the North Bay this year through California’s Career Pathways Trust, a one-time, $250 million fund created through education legislation in July 2013.

A total of $22.2 million will go to schools in the North Bay, according to a grant summary released Friday by the California Department of Education. The funds are meant to boost programs that provide career and technical education aligned with workforce needs of regional employers.

The largest of those grants, at $15 million, will support a six-county effort to create and enhance linked “pathway” programs between North Bay kindergarten, elementary and high schools; community colleges; four-year universities; and employers, said Stephen Jackson, director of career development and work force preparation at the Sonoma County Office of Education. Matching contributions from various employers, including the value of time pledged for hosting students and other contributions, are expected to boost that dollar amount to around $35 million, he said.

“The use of the funds is going to be to align the economic and workforce needs in our region with the career pathway programs in the high schools, the community colleges and the four-year universities where they fit,” said Mr. Jackson, whose organization spearheaded the grant application.

A total of 37 high schools, six county offices of education, five community colleges, five workforce investment boards and a number of regional employers will take part in the “Northern California Career Pathways Alliance,” spanning Sonoma, Marin, Napa, Solano, Mendocino and Lake counties, Mr. Jackson said.

Other individual grant beneficiaries include the Vallejo City Unified School District, which received nearly $6 million, and the Konocti Unified School District, which received $1.2 million, according to the state department of education.

Funding for schools in Northern California Career Pathways Alliance will support six areas considered “high-wage, high-growth and high-skill” by regional workforce investment boards: agriculture and natural resources; health, science and medical technology; business and finance; hospitality and tourism; manufacturing; information and communications technology; engineering and architecture and public safety, according to the group’s grant application provided to the North Bay Business Journal.

Staff will be added in districts to focus directly on coordinating those efforts with schools and employers for potential collaborative programs, along with opportunities for practical courses that combine skills like math and manufacturing, Mr. Jackson said. Tomorrow’s Leaders Today, a nonprofit group already offering career counseling, soft skill training and workplace learning programs at Sonoma County Schools, will provide that staff, he said.

The first impacts from the grant are expected to be implemented in the next few months, potentially benefiting between 4,000 and 5,000 students enrolled in various career pathway programs throughout the region, he said. A committee composed of representatives from participating districts and employers will determine the allotment of the grant, which is planned to last for three years.

“The pathways grant is going to provide great opportunities to train and retrain Sonoma County residents for areas where there really are jobs,” said Frank Chong, president of Santa Rosa Junior College and superintendent of its related district.

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