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Santa Rosa Junior College honored about 3,200 students with certificates for having successfully completed one or more of its 150 career technical education, or CTE, programs.

Over 50 percent of SRJC students are currently enrolled in one or more CTE courses. The college has awarded approximately 3,000 certificates annually over the past three years, the second-highest total among all community colleges in California.

“This celebration acknowledges the hard work that or CTE students have done to accomplish their educational goals,” said Jerry Miller, senior dean of CTE and economic development at SRJC. “For years SRJC has offered programs that lead to high-wage, high-demand jobs. We are as committed as ever to offering the best education and training that meets the needs of industry.”

These programs — ranging from agriculture and natural resources to work experience — are found within 14 campus departments and reflect the current needs of the workplace as well as emerging job categories. Career-oriented certificate categories include public safety and administration of justice, health sciences, automotive technology, and culinary arts and hospitality.

Pharmacy technician courses are among the top 20. Also popular are viticulture and wine studies, teacher training, human resources, natural resources management, machine tool technology, computer studies, child development and a number of business-related administrative skill areas. Those are a few of the more than 12 dozen CTE courses currently offered.

A statewide survey shows that students who complete a CTE certificate at a California community college nearly double their precertificate earnings after five years in the workplace. About 44 percent of those who achieve certificates earn $56,000 or more annually, and 24 percent earn $79,000 or more after this initial period.

Kicking off the college's third annual Celebrate CTE event May 25 to fete certificate recipients, Miller appealed to those seeking higher paying jobs in the greater Santa Rosa and Sonoma County area to “enroll now and help rebuild your community. For those of you in the millennial generation, here’s your chance to change the world.”

He countered the perception held by some that these are low-end jobs. Carpenters building homes in Santa Rosa's wildfire-devastated Coffey Park, for example, are earning upwards of $60 per hour, equivalent to $2,400 per week or $9,600 a month.

Miller admitted that before the October wildfires, SRJC’s CTE curriculum was not addressing the needs of the building trades.

“We are now,” he said. “We have to be flexible to respond to community and business demand and ride with the tide. This means taking a hard look at the courses we offer to see which ones to keep and which ones to modify, eliminate or replace.”

Since the fires, SRJC has collaborated with local construction leaders, high school CTE teachers and regional union officials to place increased emphasis on courses focusing on the construction trades.

SRJC’s regional adult education programs, headed by Nancy Miller, recently received a $6 million grant, working with the Sonoma County Economic Development Board and Habitat for Humanity to build a construction site to train workers for the panelized home construction field, according to Ellen Maremont Silver, director of communications and marketing at SRJC. Building is expected to begin by the end of July.

SRJC also received $3.8 million from the California Community Colleges CTE Strong Workforce program and $639,690 from Carl D. Perkins Career and Technical Education Improvement Act federal programs, known collectively as Perkins CTEA for the 2017–2018 fiscal year. The Strong Workforce grant goes from July 1, 2016, to the end of this calendar year.

Silver said the purpose of Strong Workforce funding is to provide more and better CTE. That means using funds to increase student enrollment in CTE programs, as well as ensuring better outcomes for students, while responding to industry needs. “Better” refers to completion of certificates and degrees, transferring to four-year colleges, getting jobs in their program of study and earning a livable wage. About 17 percent of the annual funding is based on achieving these metrics.

Maker classes are also part of SRJC's new emphasis on building things. A new class called Mechatronics and Industrial Automation, led by instructor M.J. Papa.

In May, SRJC’s CTE program was honored by the California Community Colleges’ Board of Governors and the Chancellor’s Office as a statewide “Strong Workforce Star” for its innovative programs that advance economic and social mobility for students by achieving significant gains and success in improving student employment and wage outcomes.

Award criteria included meeting one to three key thresholds, such as an increase in participant earnings by 50 percent or more; attainment of the regional living wage by 70 percent or more, or 90 percent or more students employed in a job similar to their field of study.

SRJC received gold, silver or bronze “star” levels for 25 of its CTE programs. Gold stars (matching all three thresholds) were received for nursing, with a 216 percent increase in earnings, 90 percent of students attaining the regional living wage and 100 percent of students employed in a related job similar.

The vocational nursing program was the second gold-star recipient. Certificate recipients had a 143 percent increase in earnings, 91 percent attainment of the regional living wage and 100 percent employment in in the field.

Silver stars go to programs that meet two of the three criteria. SRJC’s Basic Police Officer Academy and fire technology, human resources administration, pharmacy technician and viticulture programs received silver stars.

Seventeen additional SRJC CTE programs received Bronze Stars for meeting one of the three threshold requirements.

Frank Chong, president and superintendent of SRJC, recognized Keysight Technologies as the college’s 2018 CTE Industry Champion, an honor bestowed on an individual or business that enhances such education at SRJC by contributing to the improvement, progress and advancement of those programs and students.

“Keysight has established a deep relationship with SRJC, specifically in science, technology, engineering and manufacturing,” Chong said. “Keysight representatives participate in developing relevant CTE curriculum by serving on advisory committees and donating equipment and technology for our programs.”

The award was presented to Hamish Gray, senior vice president of corporate services at Keysight. Joining Gray on the platform were Pat Harper, Joe Seymour, Lea Baylis and Jeff Weber, Keysight senior managers who have been instrumental in working with SRJC in support of CTE and the 180 Studios makerspace.

Jerry Miller summed up the significance of this event for this new generation of certificate holders.

“I believe in you, we believe in you and you believe in you,” he said. “You are the awesome ones we have been waiting for. Celebrate tonight your greatest accomplishments, and then tomorrow go out and heal this community … grow this community … and rebuild your community. Show the world that great things happen when we all work together.”