Press - 09/19/2016

Putting Students to Work




Robert Dolan didn’t know the difference between a mill and a micrometer – until he was laid off from his job as a car salesman and heard about the Machinist Technology Program at MiraCosta College’s Technology Career Institute. Today, Dolan is firmly ensconced in his new career as an operator at TE Connectivity in Oceanside, a firm that designs and manufactures components for companies in the aerospace and defense industries.

“I couldn’t have done it without MiraCosta College,” said Dolan. “The Technology Career Institute is a great program that taught me what I needed to know to get my foot in the door and succeed in this profession.”

Dolan isn’t the only one singing the Technology Career Institute’s praises. Graduates of the program’s core advanced manufacturing and engineering programs have a 92 percent employment rate, and students have been hired at companies ranging from Callaway Golf, IOS Technologies, Southwest Greene International, and ViaSat, to name a few.

“As a community college, a large part of our role is to prepare students for living-wage jobs that would enable them to contribute to the economy and society in general,” said Al Taccone, Dean of Career and Technical Education.

Mission accomplished.

From a new baccalaureate program in biomanufacturing to long-established allied health and nursing options, MiraCosta College is playing a key role in building the local workforce, preparing students to become business and industry leaders, medical professionals, web designers, personal fitness trainers, and more.

Not all come to MiraCosta to earn a degree. Many are mid-career professionals who attend classes to stay on top of the latest developments. Others, such as Dolan, are seeking the training needed in their search for a new career.

“For too long, people have seen students who come here and don’t earn a degree as failures, when, in fact, that wasn’t the intent for many of them to begin with. We have people who come to us with different reasons. We have plenty of students, for example, who only want to take one or two classes with us to brush up on their skills in order to advance their careers.”

Statewide, students who take career technical education courses to maintain or add to their job skills – and not to earn a degree or certificate or transfer to a four-year institution – will see median wage increases of 13.6 percent, or $4,300, according to a new student performance measurement developed by the California Community Colleges Chancellor’s Office.

“These students come to us seeking to keep their skills current or move ahead in their careers and after finishing a few courses reap significant rewards,” said California Community Colleges Chancellor Brice W. Harris. “We finally have a way to measure these successes and demonstrate the tremendous return on investment that these courses provide. A wage gain of $4,300 for courses that cost $46 a unit is a phenomenal value for students and the state.”

At MiraCosta College, students enrolling in small business and entrepreneurship programs saw their annual earnings jump a median of more than 68 percent after completing higher level CTE coursework. Those taking accounting courses saw their annual earnings jump a median of more than 16 percent. And those studying child development and early care saw their earnings jump a median of nearly 23 percent.

But more work is needed. The Task Force on Workforce, Job Creation, and a Strong Economy, co-chaired by MiraCosta College Superintendent/President Sunny Cooke, notes that too many employers in key industries are having difficulty filling job openings because workers with the skills and aptitudes required are in short supply. It is estimated that by 2025, 30 percent of all job openings in California – or a total of 1.9 million jobs – will require some form of postsecondary education short of a four-year degree.

The MiraCosta College Technology Career Institute’s Advanced Manufacturing and Engineering programs are powerful examples of how the education, industry and the public sectors can collaborate to address the challenge. Their roots stretch back to 2010 when representatives from the National Tooling and Machining Association, business groups and various manufacturing companies approached MiraCosta College Community Education and Workforce Development Director Linda Kurokawa to discuss launching an accelerated machinist program. Program collaborators now include the Department of Veterans Affairs, the U.S. Department of Labor, the San Diego Workforce Partnership, and the cities of Oceanside and Carlsbad.

More than 113 people have completed either the Machinist or Engineering Technician programs since March of 2013 and many have flourished in their newfound careers.

Dolan learned of the accelerated machinist program through a state Employment Development Department career center while collecting unemployment benefits. A counselor noted that there was a huge demand for, and severe shortage of, qualified machinists in the area. When Dolan learned a state grant would pay for the tuition to cover the three-month, 40-hour per week program, he was in.

“The more I thought about it, the more it made sense,” he said.

Classes began in May of 2015. “Every day we were being challenged to do a new project and learn everything you could possibly learn about the trade,” Dolan said. “Compared to where I was at, I’ve come a long way.”

MiraCosta College’s accelerated technician programs are the only ones of their kind in North County and a pair of recent donations from the Gerard Foundation and the San Diego Women’s Foundation totaling nearly $100,000 will enable an expansion of the Technology Career Institute to include a welding component and offer scholarships to students.

Courses for the first cohort of welding students is expected to commence in October, with job placement beginning in early 2017.

More improvements may be on the way. The new state budget includes $200 million for community colleges to expand access to career technical education courses and programs. Community colleges would be expected to collaborate regionally with private industry, civic groups and labor leaders in meeting workforce needs.

“I would definitely recommend that people look into what MiraCosta has to offer,” said Dolan. "The college is looking out for the best interests of its students, and it was instrumental in setting me up for my new career. I couldn't be happier with what I'm doing now."

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