On May 4, Workforce Matters hosted a webinar on community colleges featuring Lumina Foundation and partner organizations working together to create career opportunities through short-term credential programs like High Road Construction Careers (HRCC) in California. We heard from our panel of speakers about the partnerships behind this work among organizations ranging from building and trades councils, community-based organizations, community colleges, employers, labor unions, and workforce boards, to create structured pathways to state-certified apprenticeships in a variety of crafts, while leveraging existing state and federal funding happening already in the state.

Watch the video

Featured Speakers:

  • Georgia Reagan, Strategy Officer, Employment Aligned Credential Programs, Lumina Foundation (moderator)
  • John Valencia, CEO, Good for Others
  • Marc Cowan, Field Specialist, California Workforce Development Board
  • Myesha Jackson, Special Projects Manager, San Diego Continuing Education Foundation (previously Southwestern College Continuing Education)
  • Tim Aldinger, Executive Director, Workforce Development, Foundation for California Community Colleges

“For us, equity means systematically generating greater opportunity for those who have been too long excluded from it.” – Marc Cowan, Field Specialist, California Workforce Development Board

High Road: a strategy to make the economy work for everyone        

Marc Cowan began the webinar by explaining the significance behind High Road: “If an employer offers competitive wages, invests in employees, creates opportunities for career advancement, and provides safe working conditions – they create good jobs by taking the high road. By offering competitive wages and benefits, this fortuitously improves productivity and retention.”

With that as the foundation, the HRCC program was designed as a training partnership model with the goal of creating a pipeline of outreach, pre-apprenticeship training, supportive services, and ongoing case management – from wherever the participant is in their life to career opportunities, and to maximize their success from then on. And in recognition of the inequalities felt by many on multiple axes – race, gender, ethnicity, and ability – there has been a very intentional effort to support and invest in those who have been historically disadvantaged, underrepresented, and locked out of prosperity. The supportive services and ongoing case management for each participant is a significant asset to this program.

“Community Colleges are the best places to provide the doorway to opportunity that is often so hard to find.” – Tim Aldinger, Executive Director, Workforce Development Foundation for California Community Colleges

A new role for community colleges

Programs like HRCC have allowed workforce boards and organizations engaged in this work to rethink how to work with employers and unions to create jobs. Community colleges can be the go-to training provider for a region with their ability to provide high quality, accessible, low-cost education.

Over 90% of graduates go directly from unemployed, to employed, into an apprenticeship after a 12-week training like the Apprenticeship Readiness Program. And in the creation of and learning from this model, John Valencia shared that organizations have begun replicating similar programs not only in the construction trades, but in others as well, including cyber security and healthcare with medical assistants. “We can get people who are unemployed, under-employed, or even upscaling – jobs that matter – family-sustaining wages that can actually make a difference.”

“This funding is strategic, purposeful, meaningful, getting people jobs – and the best part is, the outcomes are insanely awesome.” – John Valencia, CEO, Good for Others”

How can funders engage in this work?

Our panelists shared a few ways philanthropy can expand, deepen, and amplify this work:

  1. Support strategically. In supporting HRCC, Lumina directed its support to the Foundation for California Community Colleges in part because of its ability and capacity to provide the backend financial operations necessary to direct resources to the rest of the partners in the work.
  2. Fill in the financial gaps. “We knew we needed [to develop] a contextualized curriculumto be aligned to not only learn the skills in the construction career, but also math, and the English language needed for that career. Lumina Foundation stepped up and filled that gap.” – John Valencia
  3. Fund supportive services. “We lost participants who had to choose between going to work and participating in the program. Foundations and grantmakers help us [address student needs] – rent, transportation, vehicle, insurance – these are the barriers and where they need additional help.” – Myesha Jackson

We are grateful to our speakers for sharing about their work and their commitment to creating opportunities to strengthen and build up our communities.  

Resources & Links

More information about Talent Pipeline Management: https://www.uschamberfoundation.org/talent-pipeline-management 

More on the MC3 curriculum from North America’s Building Trades Unions: https://nabtu.org/apprenticeship-and-training/apprenticeship-readiness-programs

More on the LCP (labor compliance software) tracker:

For more information on how the federal government is characterizing good jobs, please see USDOL’s Good Jobs Principles – https://www.dol.gov/general/good-jobs/workers/good-jobs

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