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100 Percent Employment: SCC Apprenticeship Programs Helping to Close the Gap Programs

February 26, 2019

According to some estimates, California will face a shortage of nearly 1.5 million skilled workers by 2025. While the California Community Colleges are working hard to address what experts call the “middle-skills job gap,” questions remain about the most effective ways to help students get the skills they need to secure these often high-paying jobs and fulfill regional workforce needs.

Santiago Canyon College has one possible answer: apprenticeships.

As the largest apprenticeship program within the Orange County Community Colleges system and the third largest in California, SCC’s apprenticeship program offers many unique and compelling benefits for students who want to immediately enter the workforce while also seeking a higher level of education and certification.

“Apprenticeships are an outstanding opportunity,” says Von Lawson, Dean of Business and Career Education at Santiago Canyon College. “These programs educate you for free so you have no debt, and then they employ you. 100 percent of graduates have a job. That’s how apprenticeships work. What other programs can say that?”

The result of key partnerships between regional trade unions (or “training trusts”), local businesses, and the college itself, apprenticeships in many ways encapsulate the “win-win” mission of career education: to meet regional and national workforce needs by providing skilled graduates direct pathways to high-paying jobs.

Apprentices not only get paid while they train, they earn raises for each completed training level, they earn college credit for the classroom instruction they receive, and apprenticeship classes are exempt from regular college tuition and enrollment fees.

Despite these advantages, resistance to career education remains. “You have a group of people out there who are always going to say, ‘That’s old vocational ed. That’s for people that don’t want a college education,’” says Lawson, who himself followed a traditional four-year degree path but now considers himself a “100% career ed convert.”

“The reality is you can go into any of our career ed or apprenticeship programs and then go as far as you want to,” he continues. “But here’s the difference: when you go through our program first, you leave with a skill related to an actual job that can make you real money. Many of our students are able to pay for themselves to get through school because they leave our programs with outstanding, high-paying career opportunities already.”

This year, SCC’s career education programs earned an impressive 11 Strong Workforce Stars from the California Community Colleges Chancellor’s Office’s Strong Workforce Program, which honors programs that exhibit exceptionally strong student outcomes in the areas of earnings gains, living wage achievement, and degree-related job attainment.

What’s more impressive is that five of those Stars went to apprenticeship programs.

“These stars are a testament to our amazing Business and Career Education staff and all of our partners at the training trusts,” says Lawson. “Across the board, they’re all so immensely dedicated. They do the hard work because they want these programs to grow and they want to see graduates do well. They really do care.”

In conjunction with regional training trusts and the State of California’s Division of Apprenticeship Standards, the apprenticeship program at Santiago Canyon College offers apprenticeships in the following areas:

  • Carpentry: Acoustical Tile, Drywall/Lather, Drywall Finisher, Plastering
  • Carpentry: Concrete, Finish Carpentry, Framing, Tilt-Up
  • Carpentry: Millwright
  • Carpentry: Pile Driver
  • Cosmetology
  • Electrician: Inside Wireman, Sound Installer
  • Maintenance Mechanic and Electrician
  • Operating Engineers: Heavy Equipment Operator, Heavy Duty Repair, Inspection, Rock Products Industry
  • Power Lineman
  • Surveying: Chainman, Chief of Party

In all cases, successful completion (which includes the passing of licensure exams) leads to journeyworker status in the State of California, meets requirements for a Certificate of Achievement through Santiago Canyon College, and satisfies major requirements for an associate degree. This means that apprentices looking to finish their AA have only their general education requirements to complete.

For example, SCC’s Power Lineman program, which earned a Gold Star, takes approximately three and a half years to complete and mixes classroom/field instruction with 7,000 hours of paid, on-the-job training to prepare students for the highly skilled work of erecting and maintaining power lines.

Similarly, the Silver-Star-winning Carpentry: Drywall/Lather, Electricity: Industrial, Surveying: Chief of Party programs, and the Bronze-Star-winning Maintenance Mechanic I program all provide similar in-depth, on-the-job training in their respective fields that not only allows students to secure a debt-free education, but leads directly to employment.

As the middle-skills job gap continues to grow, SCC remains committed to providing the kind of workforce education that graduates and Orange County businesses need to not just keep the lights on, but to shine. For more information about SCC’s many career education and apprenticeship programs, please visit the Division of Business and Career Education at  https://www.sccollege.edu/Departments/CareerEd/Pages/default.aspx