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Connecting CE: The Orange County Career Education Community College Network Feature Story
In 2016, Dr. Gustavo Chamorro, Orange County Director of the Los Angeles/ Orange County Regional Consortium, and Anthony Teng, Dean of Advanced Technology and Applied Science at Saddleback College, had the idea to create a regional group where career education counselors would come together to network and share best practices.
Chamorro’s motivation was simple: “Counselors are critical for our students’ success; I am a living testament of that as it was my community college counselor who paved the way towards my education, and in the process, my future.”
The workgroup could have been called the Orange County Career Education Counselor’s Group, but it wasn’t, and for good reason.
“From the very beginning, we wanted to be a resource not only for counselors, but for all of our Community College partners serving career education students”, says Amanda Romero, one of the group’s founding members and its de facto director. “Career Center faculty and staff, for instance, play a critical role in connecting education to the local workforce. This was one of reasons why we wanted to include them, but also other stakeholders who are serving as movers and shakers. We made it a point to choose a name that was inclusive of the many community college groups directly serving Career Education students.”
Today, this “inclusivity” is a hallmark of the group, which is known as the Orange County Career Education Community College Network, also known as OC CE CC Network. Each month, roughly 30-35 Career Education professionals, journey to one of the region’s ten community colleges to share best practices, explore the latest in career education, participate in professional development opportunities, and learn about each other’s programs.
“At first, I was worried no one was going to attend, but after the first couple meetings, it really took off and the group became so strong it started driving itself,” says Romero, who is also a Career Education Counselor at Irvine Valley College. “There’s this synergy now. We’re sharing best practices, resources, and helping each other succeed in our various roles. This group has been such a critical component in the work we do and has allowed us to keep up with the various things going on in our region. Ultimately through our own professional development were discovering ways to better serve our students, which is the ultimate goal. I love the synergy and positivity felt within our group, especially as we continue to grow.”
Meetings run the gamut from workshops on topics of interest to professional development presentations. At one session, a counselor from Coastline Community College shared a “Career Exploration” presentation which attendees were then able to take back to their own colleges to implement with students.
At another, members attended a workshop lead by New World of Work, an organization that specializes in providing resources for teaching “21st Century employability skills.” Romero herself liked the workshop so much, she convinced her home college to host a New World of Work training for faculty, staff, local high school counselors, and members of the OC CE CC Network.
For Romero, these professional development benefits are secondary to the relationships the group is encouraging.
“As a Career Education Counselor, it is easy to tend to want to work in silos, but groups like this one are a great way to break down those traditional silos,” explains Romero. “For example, in order to find the best pathway for students, that sometimes means sending them to a different college where the program they are looking for is offered. Before, I didn’t really know what would happen when I would refer a student out, or if they’d be in good hands, and if they’d get the information they needed.”
“Now because of this group, I know exactly who I am sending them to and know they will be in good hands. This group has really bridged gaps and allowed us to pick up the phone and call our now ‘friends’ from other colleges. A true example of providing the best service to our students.”
In addition to helping working professionals and students, the group has evolved into an important resource for regional groups seeking input regarding various new and upcoming career education projects.
“When we started, we were really a community college professional development group,” says Jennifer Rachman, a career counselor at Saddleback College who assisted Romero in the creation of the group. “But we’re much more than that now. We’re really supporting the career education efforts of the whole region.”
For example, when the OC Career Cafe was restructuring and rebranding their Guided Pathways website, the group provided important recommendations regarding elements such as sector naming, and user experience.
Similarly, the group’s expertise was tapped by Steven Glyer and the Orange County Department of Education during the development of their K12-Community College CE Crosswalk Enrollment Tool, which helps streamline the transition of high school students into career education programs at the region’s community colleges.
Going forward, the group is excited to continue its efforts to support regional career education efforts both on and off its member campuses.
“Career education used to be hardly talked about,” reflects Rachman. “But the state and the Chancellor’s Office are changing that. That’s what Guided Pathways is all about. They’re looking at student success from start to finish and identifying the things that are working and what needs to change. In our own way, we’re trying to do the same thing.”
For more information about the Orange County Career Education Community College Network, contact Amanda Romero at https://dir.ivc.edu/amanda-romero.
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