By Dr. Edward C. Ortell, Citrus College Governing Board Member
This spring, representatives from school districts throughout the region will visit Citrus College for the annual K-14 Education Forum. During the event, local board of education members, superintendents and school administrators will join the college’s administrators, deans and faculty for an informative morning of collaboration and discussion. The focus of this year’s forum will be the career technical education (CTE) programs offered at Citrus College.
The forum’s theme is relevant and timely. With employers struggling to find skilled workers to fill job openings, responding to labor market demands has become a state priority. In 2016, the California Community Colleges Chancellor’s Office introduced its Strong Workforce program, which addresses the workforce crisis by providing funding for community colleges to improve and expand their career education programs. As a Strong Workforce partner, Citrus College has committed to supporting the program’s objective of lifting low-wage workers into living-wage jobs.
Of course, preparing students to enter the workforce has long been the goal of Citrus College’s CTE programs. Citrus College offers 18 CTE associate degrees, four CTE transfer degrees, and is currently awaiting the approval of an additional CTE transfer degree that has been sent to the Chancellor’s Office. It also offers 38 certificates of achievement and more than 10 skill awards. The wide range of CTE programs includes automotive technology, biotechnology, nursing, water technology and more.
Each of these programs is designed to provide students with the education and skills needed to succeed in the workplace. Before a new program is introduced or curriculum is established, faculty and staff research industry demands and study the regional economy. Among other things, they determine which occupations are predicted to have growth, which have a shortage of workers and which pay a livable wage. Working closely with business and industry professionals, they identify the knowledge needed to secure and sustain employment.
This detailed and thoughtful approach led to the creation of Citrus College’s newest CTE associate degree program, construction management. Debuting during the 2019-2020 academic year, this program will prepare students to hold entry-level construction management positions, work with public agencies or private construction firms or become employed with construction contractors. Program graduates will understand the fundamental systems and processes employed in building and heavy construction. They will also be prepared with specialized skills and certificates in construction inspection and quality control.
Another new CTE option is stationary power generation service, diagnosis and repair. This program, which will be the only one of its kind in Southern California, will allow students to complete courses in the maintenance of diesel-powered stationary power generators and associated equipment. After earning their technical certificate, graduates will be prepared to pursue careers as electrical and electronics repairers, power distributors and dispatchers, stationary engineers, and mobile heavy equipment mechanics.
I am confident that these new programs will be beneficial to the region. According to the Centers of Excellence for Labor Market Research, available data has determined that the programs will fulfill unmet workforce needs. In addition, the entry-level earnings of program graduates will exceed a living wage.
As the Duarte area’s representative on the Citrus Community College District Board of Trustees, I am proud that the college equips students with highly marketable, specialized skills, and I am certain that it will continue to play a critical role in addressing labor market demands for years to come.