Strong Workforce Program Dollars: Fulfilling a Dream Feature Story

July 14, 2021

Talk about a worthwhile investment. The three-year, $8.4-million Strong Workforce Program initiative at Orange County’s community colleges is succeeding in boosting the number of students who have earned a degree or certificate or attained apprenticeship journey status thanks to an array of skills-building courses developed in partnership with business and industry.

“Strong Workforce dollars are providing opportunities at a level never seen before, opening doors for anyone, regardless of status, to prepare for careers that will lift them out of living from paycheck to paycheck,” said Gustavo Chamorro, Orange County Director of the Los Angeles and Orange County Regional Consortium of community colleges. 

Funding began flowing to Orange County colleges in 2019 and will continue through December of 2021. Among the investments:

  • The Regional Automation Pathways Project is addressing employer needs for a highly trained automation workforce in a range of industries. The project addresses estimated demand of 3,200 job openings annually in the Los Angeles-Orange County region, with 1,416 openings in Orange County paying median hourly wages ranging from $16 to $37.
  • Biotechnology/Manufacturing Deputy Sector Navigator, who works closely with industry, labor, and colleges to create needed programs and strengthen enrollment in degree and certificate programs tied to the biotechnology and manufacturing sector.  
  • The Cloud Computing Initiative, which utilizes learning content developed by Amazon that specifically relates to Amazon Web Services (AWS) for a variety of information technology services.
  • COVID-19 remote instruction improvement funds made available to each Orange County community college to support those on the other side of the digital divide when instruction transitioned to online learning as campuses were closed.
  • The CyberPatriot project providing a K-12 cybersecurity and information and communications technology pathway into regional community colleges and to inspire and motivate student to pursue studies and training in ICT areas through the well-known national CyberPatriot Program and the C-STEM OC (Computing, Science, Technology, Engineering and Math Orange County) Program that integrates learning in programming, robotics, and Digital Media. 
  • Virtual Netlabs providing virtual classroom access to colleges in Los Angeles and Orange counties. The project includes the centralization of NetLabs/Cisco equipment. 
  • The Orange County Biotechnology Education Partnership is a joint effort by four colleges initiated in response to the educational and vocational needs of their respective communities. The partnership has been guided by academic and industry advisors and has resulted in modern biotechnology programs dedicated laboratories and state-of-the-art equipment.
  • The Orange County Center of Excellence, which provides detailed labor market information data, allowing community colleges to better prepare their programs for industry needs. 
  • Regional Directors in several areas who collaborate with labor, business, and education in developing new programs and updating curriculum. Regional Directors are being funded in the areas of Advanced Transportation & Logistics; Business & Entrepreneurship; Energy, Construction & Utilities; Health; Retail, Hospitality & Tourism.
  • TalentEd Story Maps using geographic information system templates that empower students to identify and pursue pathways to personal and financial success.
  • Developing a Vertical Sector Leas for Advanced Manufacturing..
  • An Automotive Collaborative in which automotive technology programs in the region’s community colleges work in concert to further develop industry contacts, boost faculty knowledge and skills, and improve instructional resources.
  • The Advanced Manufacturing and STEM Work Based Learning project led by Saddleback College, in partnership with Santa Ana College, Fullerton College, and Cypress College.
  • The Orange County Careers in Education Pathway Collaborative, a continuing project designed to address the educator shortage in the region by focusing on students’ early work-based learning, certificate and degree completion leading to employment in the education sector at a living wage and ultimately transferring to a four-year college or university for a bachelor’s degree and state teaching credential.
  • Program Finder, an easy-to-use online took that is connecting high school students in Orange County with career education programs that match their interests at Orange County community colleges.
  • A comprehensive marketing campaign, based on research and data, aimed at creating greater awareness of career education programs to drive enrollment. 

“All of these programs have succeeded in fulfilling the dreams of literally of many of our Orange County residents,” said Chamorro.