From Preschool to College Feature Story

June 01, 2021

Not everyone who wants to teach is looking to land a job at a K-12 school or goes straight to a four-year college or university. Which is why the Orange County Careers in Education (CIE) Pathway Collaborative, a Strong Workforce Program-funded partnership that includes seven of the region’s nine community colleges, is developing non-credit courses for family child-care providers.

As co-leads of the Careers in Education Pathway Collaborative, Santiago Canyon and Santa Ana colleges are at the helm of coordinating regional efforts to assist other colleges in establishing, strengthening, and streamlining their programs and pathways. The goal is to create a seamless environment where students go from local high schools to community colleges, to employment and/or transfer to a university, culminating in better job prospects with or without a teaching credential.  The strategy includes articulated courses where high school students earn college credit for CTE courses taken in high school and expanded pathway development from middle school to high school to college and career.

Supporting those who want to explore preschool education is critical in exposing future educators to all the possibilities in education. 

“One of the things we do at a community college is help our students determine the best setting for them to work in,” said Dr. Steve Bautista, a Santa Ana College counselor and program coordinator at the college’s Center for Teacher Education. “Is it preschool, high school, college? Maybe it’s not even teaching. Maybe it’s counseling. As they enter the pipeline, we help them discern the kind of setting they would be most comfortable working in… It begins with understanding who you are, what your goals are and aligning your values with the setting you want to work in.”

A separate but related effort, the Pathways to Teaching Program at Santiago Canyon College, is designed to promote education to high school and community college students interested in teaching by motivating them to transfer to a university while obtaining a teaching credential.

Under the Careers in Education Pathway Collaborative, two new courses, Family Childcare Business Practices and Family Childcare Curriculum and Environment, will be offered at Saddleback College beginning in the spring of 2022. They evolved from needs expressed by in-home childcare providers, said Christina Smith, co-chair and professor in the Child Development and Education Department at Saddleback College.

“The immediate goal is to provide students with the skills needed to become even better childcare providers without having to worry about a GPA, but we also want to give them the confidence to continue on to for-credit, college courses and perhaps earn a degree.”

Demand is strong. Saddleback College currently has three cohorts of students in its for-credit Family Childcare Providers program, with students in the first cohort nearing the completion of their associate degree in early childhood education this spring.

And why not? Preschool teaching is considered an important Orange County occupation that requires some community college career education. More than 3,900 preschool teachers will be working in Orange County by 2025, an increase of 8% from 2021, according to “OC Strong: Economic and Occupation Projections for Orange County, 2021-2025”, published in January. Projections call for an estimated 91,334 people working in the educational instruction and library occupations sector by 2025, an increase of 8.4% from 2021.

The new Saddleback College programs are critical to the Orange County Careers in Education Pathway Collaborative’s efforts to create streamlined, high school-to-career pathways that help future teachers get the education and training needed to succeed faster. Participating Orange County community colleges include Santiago Canyon College, Santa Ana College, Fullerton College, Irvine Valley College, Golden West College, Saddleback College, and Coastline College.