The California legislature has appropriated $200 million for the community colleges’ Strong Workforce Program. In 2015, the community colleges’ Board of Governors’ Task Force on Workforce, Job Creation, and a Strong Economy issued a set of recommendations to enhance postsecondary career technical education. The appropriation funds the Task Force’s recommendations that include actions to increase student success, build career pathways, enhance data, strengthen curriculum, increase the pool of qualified instructors, and improve regional coordination.
The $200 million is a remarkable investment in middle-skill training, and the accompanying legislation represents an extraordinary partnership between the California community colleges and the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) system.
The legislation calls for aligning the Strong Workforce Program with the California Workforce Development Board’s Strategic Workforce Development Plan. Both the Strong Workforce Program and the Strategic Plan emphasize regional planning, and the legislation requests that planning regions be aligned to the extent possible. Moreover, under the legislation the Strong Workforce Program plans must be “informed by, aligned with, and expand upon” the regional plans established under WIOA.
In order to receive funding from the Strong Workforce Program, a community college must be part of a Regional Collaborative. The Regional Collaborative must include community college districts, local educational agencies, interested campuses of the California State University and the University of California, civic leaders, workforce development boards, and representatives from labor, economic development, and business.
Forty percent of the funds allocated by the state must go to the fiscal agents of the Regional Collaboratives and must be used to meet the needs identified in the Collaborative and WIOA regional plans. Sixty percent of the funds must go to individual college districts to carry out activities consistent with the two plans.
The legislation also supports the use of industry partnerships and urges the community colleges to build upon the industry partnerships established under WIOA. Other strategies endorsed by the legislation include career pathways, integrated support services, work-based learning, and the use of the WIOA common measures. Permissible uses of the funds include contributing to the development of cross-program reporting consistent with WIOA.
By aligning the Strong Workforce Program with WIOA planning, strategies, and measures, California will advance the coordination of workforce development programs as it increase resources for job-driven investments.