Solano College hosts forum to explore building robust CTE program
By Dina Martin
Community colleges around the state are preparing for a new golden age in creating career technical education programs that will help revive local economies. And who is better able to help implement those programs than faculty and local labor organizations?
That was the thinking behind “Doing What Matters for Jobs in Our Community,” a forum hosted by the Solano College Faculty Association in August. The forum drew almost 200 educators, local business leaders, and representatives from industry and labor to brainstorm on ways the community can support new career pathways in Solano County. Among the participants were state Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson, Assembly Members Bill Dodd (D-Napa) and Jim Frazier (D-Oakley), and a staff person from the office of U.S. Rep. John Garamendi (D-Walnut Grove). Also attending were officials and faculty of San Bernardino and San Joaquin Delta community colleges who wanted to learn how to structure a similar event on their campuses.
“It was tremendously exciting to have representatives from organized labor, education, business and industry meet and share ideas in this kind of forum,” said Erin Farmer, president of the Solano College Faculty Association (SCFA). “These are all groups that are fundamental for building a thriving economy and a good quality of life in our community.”
Over the past several decades, career technical education (CTE) has diminished as part of the college curriculum, which many believe has had a negative impact on the numbers of trained workers to rebuild local economies, both in California and nationally. Yet CTE has seen a revival in interest and funding under Gov. Jerry Brown’s leadership. In 2016, some $200 million was allocated for CTE, and a task force formed by former Chancellor Brice Harris made 25 recommendations for a Strong Workforce Program as guidelines in creating robust CTE programs for community colleges.
SCFA formed a steering committee comprising the Napa Solano Central Labor Council, the Workforce Development Board at Solano, the Industrial Areas Foundation, Solano Community College District, and CCA/CTA to produce the public forum. Held Aug. 12 at the Sheet Metal Workers Local 104 building, this event brought together for the first time individuals who rarely discuss and problem-solve around the needs of CTE.
Participants were asked to brainstorm ideas relating to the question, “What can Solano Community College and its stakeholders do to create a strong workforce?” Discussions took place at 12 round tables and were facilitated by CTA and Industrial Areas Foundation facilitators.
The event helped raise awareness of the CTE programs offered at Solano College for the college’s board of trustees, state and federal officials, and local business owners. The forum also helped solidify the relationship between the three unions on campus, the Solano College Faculty Association, Operating Engineers/Stationary Engineers Local 39, and Chapter 211 of the California School Employees Association.
“This event showed that there is great interest in Solano Community College playing a bigger role in workforce development especially in high skilled, high tech jobs,” said Karen Cook, a drafting instructor who helped organize the event. “I don’t think Solano is unique in the community college system in that regard. I am excited to watch, and be a part of, what develops from this forum.”
She added, “One of the interesting things is that the faculty association prepared a packet with information about all of the CTE programs available at the college, and many of the attendees, including some at the college, were not even aware that the school had all of these programs.”
Former SCFA President Jim DeKloe agreed. “In a way, the faculty union has been the most effective force about doing something the college should be doing.”
This is not the first time that SCFA has taken a leading role in reaching out to the campus community. Last spring it launched a successful “getting to know you” campaign when it began displaying posters profiling faculty and staff around campus.
“That ‘We Honor Ours’ campaign was amazingly effective at communicating to students and staff just who we are, what we do, and why we are here,” DeKloe said.