California eyes master plan to transform career ed

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Alexis Ayala, left, goes over plans for the construction of a tiny house with instructor Rodney Attkisson at Fresno City College’s Career and Technology Center.

Ashleigh Panoo / EdSource

Gov. Gavin Newsom wants to transform career and technical education to help students get training for lifelong work and careers.

Progress has been made in recent months toward creating a new state master plan for career education that goes beyond traditional concepts of vocational and technical training, according to the governor’s top education adviser.

The aim is a report that will say, “Here’s how we can move from where we are now, which is a mishmash of systems, to a more coherent set of systems that align towards supporting careers,” said Ben Chida, Newsom’s senior adviser to develop the state’s Cradle-to-Career Data System, which aims to track students’ progress through data collected from birth into jobs. 

The goal is to get a plan written and released to the public by the end of this calendar year that would create “more equitable access to living wage, fulfilling work,” according to the website for the Governor’s Council for Career Education.

Then the governor and Legislature are expected to work on bills and funding measures that could make a splintered education and training system better organized and better connected to employers.

A document released in January listed “core concepts” the upcoming master plan should address. Those include establishing a new coordinating council that will try to better link high schools and colleges with each other and with employers and will allocate state and federal funds for training. Another concept is to increase opportunities for work-based and hands-on learning, with the possibility of financial aid and other benefits for adult learners too.

The process began last August when Newsom signed an executive order calling for the state to create a master plan for career education. That would aim to remove barriers students face as they move from K-12 to trade school, colleges and beyond into their employed years.

Public meetings were held around the state in recent months to get input from educators, industry and the public on turning ideas into action. Nominations from various constituencies are being sought to participate in online meetings in the fall to further discuss the state’s needs and to “identify missing topics and red flags,” according to the website.

The early “concepts” document does not specify the types of technical training most needed and what is available in California now. Officials say that is because the future master plan should be open-ended and flexible enough to adapt to changes in the job markets and technologies.

Its focus appears to be well beyond the traditional notion of teaching skills like welding, robotics and cooking. It calls for “training systems over an individual’s lifetime” at schools and workplaces that include “21st century skills.”

One goal is to not force students so much into education tracks that so strictly separate college-bound students from those aiming for vocational/career paths. ”One of the biggest things that we’re going to tackle in this master plan is how do you start thinking about high school and post-secondary in a way that doesn’t require you to basically track students into one or the other path,” Chida said.

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